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Vocal About Listening

May 19, 2000|ZAN STEWART | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Singer Tierney Sutton says it's not enough for jazz vocalists to listen just to their counterparts, they need to check out jazz instrumentalists too.

"The best singers sound like an instrumentalist, and vice versa," said Sutton, one of Los Angeles' brightest lights among jazz vocalists.

Studying solos by the likes of alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderley, tenor saxophonist John Coltrane and trumpeter Clifford Brown gives a singer's ear a solid workout, said Sutton, a native of Omaha, Neb., who is head of the jazz vocal department at the USC School of Music.

"Singers can't just press a button on a horn and blow a melody. You have to hear it and then execute it," said Sutton. "And by learning what a smart and gifted player like Cannonball Adderley decided to play over a certain set of chord changes, then you're learning vocabulary for improvisation."

Sutton appears Thursday at 7 p.m. at Monteleone's West in Tarzana with pianist Dave Mackay. Her new and delightful album, "Unsung Heroes," features tunes that are best known as instrumentals. These include Joe Henderson's "Recordame," Brown's "Joy Spring" and Jimmy Rowles' "The Peacocks," all of which now have lyrics attached. At Monteleone's, Sutton and Mackay will do some of the selections off the album as well as other classic standards and jazz songs. Expect surprises.

"We have a very improvisational approach," said Sutton, who lives in Van Nuys with her husband, trombonist Alan Kaplan, and their son, Ryan, 3 1/2. "I'm likely to just start something off and Dave, who is brilliant, a real unsung hero, comes in when he wants. So I follow him and he follows me and we kind of float through the gig, stretching out as we go."

The fact that Mackay is blind and doesn't read music on their engagements also takes Sutton to a special place. "There's a listening thing that goes on, in that Dave is limited by nothing except what he's hearing, which creates a different kind of energy," she said. "When the accompanist is in that situation, you try to be there, too."

DETAILS

Tierney Sutton and Dave Mackay appear Thursday, 7 to 11 p.m., at Monteleone's West, 19337 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana. No cover; without dinner, $9.95 food/drink minimum. Information: (818) 996-0662.

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Press Rolls: Fiery jazz fusion/straight-ahead drum whiz Alphonse Mouzon, the original Weather Report trapsman, makes a rare area appearance on Saturday, 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., at Rocco Ristorante, 2930 Beverly Glen Circle, Bel-Air; $15 cover, no minimum; (310) 475-9807. On board will be such L.A. aces as trumpeter Sal Marquez and saxophonist Chuck Manning.

Danny Pucillo, another solid drummer whose tastes run to swing and bebop numbers, leads a quartet, also on Saturday, 9 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., at Jax, 339 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale; no cover, no minimum; (818) 500-1604.

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Zan Stewart writes about jazz for the Valley Edition. He can be reached at Zansky@AOL.com.

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