Tierney Sutton at the Café Carlyle

Tierney Sutton



By Brian Scott Lipton


In some cases, familiarity breeds contempt, but for eight-time Grammy Award nominee Tierney Sutton, her familiarity with award-winning lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman has led to a decidedly unusual and satisfying show now at the Café Carlyle.

Mind you, Sutton’s familiarity with the Bergmans extends far beyond their glorious words; she has been close friends with the long-married couple for decades, from recording demos of their songs to having dinner at their house with such celebrated guests as Barbra Streisand and John Williams. This closeness allows Sutton to share some wonderful stories – such as the fact that Alan Bergman wrote “That Face” as his way of proposing to Marilyn and then convincing Fred Astaire to record it – as well as hearing such rarities as “Ev’ry Now and Then” (music by David Grusin) or debuting “Caminhos Cruzados,” in which brand-new Bergman lyrics have been set to a gorgeous melody by the Brazilian genius Antonio Carlos Jobim.


Tierney Sutton, Mitch Forman


Above all, the trio’s friendship permits Sutton the liberty of taking some of the pair’s most beloved tunes, including “The Windmills of Your Mind,” “The Way We Were,” and “It Might Be You,” and serving them up in new (often darker) arrangements (by her musical cohorts pianist Mitch Forman and bassist Trey Henry), thereby making these classics feel entirely fresh.

In each of these tunes, as well as in all the selections of her 90-minute set, Sutton also beautifully melds her jazz sensibility with a balladeer’s respect for the lyrics. In fact, as many times as I’ve heard some of the pair’s most famed songs, such as “On My Way to You,” “What are You Doing the Rest of Your Life” and “Where Do You Start,” few renditions of these musical gems have moved me as much as Sutton’s.


Tierney Sutton, Trey Henry


Still, one wishes that the show didn’t feel quite so static; Sutton remains perched on a stool for the entire show and glances every so often at her music stand. And while one doesn’t expect her to belt a la Streisand, there is a slight sameness to the material. That issue could be fixed if Sutton found a few more up-tempo songs or arrangements to sprinkle throughout the set, such as the delightful “Make Me Rainbows” (written with John Williams for the film “Fitzwilly.”) Even her take on “Nice and Easy” (which earned Frank Sinatra his first number one album) lacks the swing to really sell it.

At her opening show on Tuesday, she aptly concluded the set with “You Must Believe in Spring,” reminding us that a new season is just days away. And her deeply felt take on this standard is just one reason so many jazz devotees believe in the brilliance of Tierney Sutton. Come see for yourself!

Photos: David Andrako


Tierney Sutton continues at the Café Carlyle (35 East 76th Street) through Match 23. Reservations can be made online via www.ticketweb.com.