Despite lending her name to the Tierney Sutton Band, the jazz songstress likes to emphasize the "band" part.
While that may be a standard line for many performers whose name is affiliated with a performing group, for Sutton it goes much deeper than lip service.
"The virtuosity of my band is pretty amazing to watch," she said by phone. "I don't think it's a coincidence that the first Grammy nomination was for a live thing" (Best Vocal Jazz Album). And when Sutton says "my band," the words come across not as a unit she owns but as a claim to membership in something she is proud of.
"With us it is a partnership."
The band members (Ray Brinker drums, Kevin Axt bass, Trey Henry bass, Christian Jacob piano) have been together for more than 15 years, playing live, releasing albums and chipping in songs for television and film. Sutton believes all that work together developed a sort of live voodoo that makes the concert experience richer for both the performers and the audience.
When they take the stage as part of the Jazz at the Sheraton series, the audience will both see and hear the group's magic, she said.
"It is so creative out there because of all those years of trust. Reading music from a page, there is no way we take those liberties."
Observant audience members, according to the singer, will see how intently the musicians regard the rest of the band, especially during solos. Sutton has a distaste for performers who drift mentally or engage other band members in chatter while others are riffing in a solo.
"That is so unholy, it is sanctified territory," she said. "I listen just as hard during a piano solo as when I am singing, if not harder. It creates a sense of unity that is really palpable. There are not many things where people are doing that with a common purpose really doing it to the top of their effort with as many years invested. Something happens."
One unique result of this unity is that the band's set list on any given night is put together after a sound check in the venue. The group discusses what feels right and which of the more than 100 arrangements in its arsenal to use for a particular show.
"We put the set together based on the audience, sound in the room, how we are feeling that day, a whole bunch of variables, and you have the band that helped create the music for 15 years."
After wondering early in her career how being a musician was important in the greater scheme of things, she learned that performing can serve a higher calling.
"Why am I doing this? 'Because I like it' was not a good enough reason," she said. "After getting feedback from those for whom it really was a service, that changed my attitude. We go out on stage with, and for, an audience. We are there for service, a higher level of human activity."I am in a band where everybody has that standard, stepping on stage as a hollow reed, in the zone of creating something that is nothing less than that."
If you go ...
What: The Tierney Sutton Band
Where: Sheraton City Center, 150 W. 500 South
When: Monday, 7:30 p.m.
How much: $25
E-mail: [email protected]