Six CDs into her career, jazz singer Tierney Sutton, a Milwaukee area native, is finally coming home.
Sutton, who released her debut disc, "Introducing Tierney Sutton," in 1999, was soon snatched up by Telarc Records, which has released all of her music since, including her latest CD, "I'm With the Band," a live set released in August and recorded over two nights a New York's legendary Birdland night club.
Sutton's discs have notched impressive spots into most jazz charts and she's even appeared (at least her voice has) in films like William H. Macy and Alec Baldwin's "The Cooler" and Samuel L. Jackson and Ashley Judd's "Twisted."
JazzWeek magazine named Sutton "Vocalist of the Year" for 2005 and she has been nominated for a Grammy for "Best Jazz Vocal Album." We recently asked her about her Wisconsin origins and her music.
OMC: Can you tell us about your Wisconsin roots?
Tierney Sutton: I grew up in Wisconsin and went to school there through high school. I went to Nicolet High in Glendale. My parents both went to Marquette and my father still lives and practices law in Milwaukee. My first "professional" gig was as a singing cocktail waitress. (I was) a "Heidel honey" at The Heidel House Resort in Green Lake. Now THAT'S some Wisconsin roots.
OMC: How did you launch your career? Did you start out here?
TS: I discovered jazz mostly after leaving Wisconsin while I was a Russian student at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.
OMC: Do you come across other Wisconsinites at all out there in the world of jazz? It seems like there haven't been that many to really emerge from here. Al Jarreau, Sonia Robinson, Brian Lynch are a few, of course.
TS: There's a singer who lives in Seattle now named Kelley Johnson and she grew up in Milwaukee and, in fact, her first CD was produced by my dad's old law partner. We met at a jazz convention a few years back. She wrote the lyric I sing on a Joe Henderson song, "Recordame" on my first Telarc CD.
OMC: Do you get back to Milwaukee much -- personally or professionally?
TS: I rarely come to Milwaukee. My dad is my only family there and he's in California visiting me a lot. Also, this is the first concert I've really ever done in Milwaukee. We spend most of our time performing in New York and on the East Coast.
OMC: Tell us a bit about the new record. Was it a thrill to record at such a fabled venue?
TS: We love Birdland. Everyone there is terrific and it's a beautiful venue -- regardless of the history. One of the wonderful things about the jazz world is that the history is so deep. Last year we played at Carnegie Hall with The New York Pops and it was just a magical event for us. We always feel the spirits of our heroes when we play those venues.
Tierney Sutton returns to Milwaukee to perform at The Pabst Theater, Saturday, Jan. 21 at 8 p.m. as part of the Hal Leonard Jazz Series, which kicked off earlier this month with a performance by Latin jazz percussionist Sammy Figueroa and The Latin Jazz Explosion.
Future concerts include: The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra, Saturday, Feb. 11 at 8 p.m.; Toots Thielemans, Saturday, March 18 at 8 p.m.; and James Carter, Saturday, April 15 at 8 p.m.
Tickets for Sutton's show range from $26.50 to $51.50 and may be purchased via The Pabst's Web site pabsttheater.org.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in an episode of TV's "Party of Five," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.