Metro Spirit: CD Reviews – Jacqui Sutton – “Billie & Dolly”

Turning 50 and starting a garage band is not the usual vocalist’s narrative. But that’s what vocalist Jacqui Sutton did and she called it the Frontier Jazz Orchestra.

What is Frontier Jazz?

It is the branding name that Houston based Jazzgrass Chic Jacqui Sutton felt would best described her brand of jazz. The concept in nature has been approached by jazz crossover artist Béla Fleck, but only instrumentally. The idea is to take one part bluegrass ,add one part jazz, bookend the idea with iconic songs at the beginning and end Billie Holiday’s “God Bless the Child” and Dolly Parton’s “Endless Stream of Tears,” bring in arranger Henry Darragh, brew for 9 months and voila, you have Sutton’s latest release Billie & Dolly.

Listeners can expect the traditional sounds of bluegrass and the sophistication of jazz. Banjo is used lavishly throughout the recording, sometimes the cello stands in for fiddle. You will hear guitar and accordion—folk instruments that bring you to the banks of the Mississippi and onto a bed of St. Augustine grass—the sound of the American frontier. Add the flute, flugelhorn and piano, and you’ll hear echoes of the open prairie and the sultry sounds of a 30’s lounge with hipsters filling the seats for night of eclectic adventures.

There are songs from the American Songbook, from the world of musical theater, and a science song written for children. Throw in some funky grooves and spicy Zydeco, and Billie & Dolly becomes even harder to pigeonhole, which is what makes this recording even more special. Frontier Jazz, Jazzgrass, well; whatever your title, it is definitely not your run of the mill CD. Sutton and her band (orchestra) of explorers have certainly discovered new territory. Divisionism, Pointillist or neo-impressionistic might be some of the terms used if this was an art presentation. My term, simply; highly recommended.

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