Christian Jacob and Ray Brinker

Christian Jacob (Piano) About the Band

There was a time when fans of my trio music wouldn't go to my gigs with the Tierney Sutton Band, because they thought the show would be all vocals and little else, now they know different. Trey, Ray, Tierney, Kevin and I continue to make this band a priority in our lives because it is purely about playing as a group. No one is a sideman and no one is the leader. Since we don't have a leader it sometimes takes us forever to make the littlest decision, but the reward is that everyone is always 100% invested into what we're creating.

It's kind of funny but we still take about half an hour before each show writing the set list and making sure everyone is good with the order and choices. The piano, sound system, acoustics and our moods make it complicated. I might not want to do something because I know it won't sound good on that piano, while Ray might have a reason to avoid using his sticks. Then sometimes we find out that one of our favorite composers has come to the show and that usually makes us redo the set list to include one of his compositions.

The band has received 3 consecutive Grammy Nominations for Best Vocal Jazz Album, a JazzWeek Award for Vocalist of the Year, consecutive nominations for Jazz Journalist Association Awards and recorded several CDs that made the #1 spot on jazz radio playlists.

Christian Jacob and Tierney Sutton

Tierney Sutton (Vocals) About the Band

When I first started playing with the members of this band, almost 18 years ago, I didn't imagine it would last this long---I just knew they were wonderful players, honorable people and when I asked if they would do my gigs, they usually said "yes".

I was recently doing an interview and was asked, as I always am, how the band got together and why it has stayed together. I was reminded of something that I had almost forgotten: it's kind of Oscar Peterson's fault. When I signed with Telarc records in 1999, I/we had already recorded our first CD "Introducing Tierney Sutton" and released it on a European label. Telarc heard the CD and signed me as an artist based on what we'd done there. The executives at Telarc asked Oscar Peterson, who was also a Telarc artist, what he thought about me. Oscar said "you should let her record with her own band- they're great". Telarc figured that Oscar might actually know what the hell he was talking about so they told me they would support me recording with the same band I was touring with and that I had recorded my first CD with.

That led to "unsung Heroes", a vocal CD of mostly instrumental compositions and then "Blue In Green", a tribute to the music of Bill Evans. By the time we finished "Blue In Green" it was almost as if we'd signed some kind of blood pact. The process that we use today and the sound of the band had emerged...because of all of us AND despite all of us. It was it's own entity and we knew, from then on, when we had gotten to "the sound" of the TSB---and when an arrangement hadn't yet arrived. Words fail me when I meditate on what this relationship has meant to me. Singing a unison line with Kevin Axt, locking into Ray Brinker's unique, layered drum figures, floating over a Trey Henry ostinato or listening to a blistering, sublime Christian Jacob reharm or solo: these things are not just a professional priviledge. They are, for me, no less than a spiritual practice. There is a way that I commune with God that seems to REQUIRE the TSB. wow. that's heavy.

Ray Brinker and Kevin Axt

Ray Brinker (Drums) About the Band

Music makes for strange bedfellows. I’m both fortunate and grateful for having been able to make music my life and profession, and for having shared the pleasure of creating music with some of the most talented artists in the world, including a fair number of my musical heroes. But, as any artist knows, throughout his life, there will be chance meetings with other artists with whom a kindred ideal, esthetic or artistic vision is shared. As a collaborative artist, one experiences these meetings as the spark for some of the most magical moments of art.

For over 17 years, I’ve had the pleasure of creating music with a small family of very unlikely, eccentric cohorts… other artists with whom I share very little in common, in terms of everyday life. What we share is a special chemistry of musical vision and perspective that has spawned the creation of music that is personally fulfilling at the highest level. It is a magnetizing force, strong enough to have united the band for nearly 2 decades. The TSB exists as the unlikely intersection of five distinctly unique musicians who, together, through a shared bond and alchemy, create music much greater than the sum of its parts.

Kevin Axt on bass

Kevin Axt (Bass) About the Band

While I haven't been with the band for 17 years, I've put in about 9 years of recording and touring with them, not to mention the fact that I've played with Christian for about 15 years, Ray over 20 and I've played with Trey for over 25 years. So I'm not a very new "new" guy. There are probably three main reasons why I've made this band my priority. First, I love the process of deconstructing and reinventing songs. It is a very satisfying creative process, especially when it's done on such a high level with such great players. Also, it's taught me a lot about letting go of my ego. This band always places the music first, and you learn to be detached about your own ideas and to hear the music more as a listener than a participant.

This heightened sense of listening as well as detachment, has influenced not only every musical situation I participate in, but every aspect of my life as well. Let's face it, we could all benefit from a greater ability to listen and mitigate our judgment of what we hear.

On occasion our band is presented with the opportunity to perform music clinics which allow us to address an entire spectrum of elements that are part of the creative music making process. It's always nothing less than revelatory to sit and listen as Tierney, Christian, Trey and Ray contribute their perspectives on how we create music, both as individuals and as a group. No matter how many times we teach these clinics, I'm always granted an epiphany or two, courtesy of my incredibly talented, insightful and articulate bandmates.

Our commitment to each other and to our process has even inspired us to incorporate our band. To my knowledge, there is no other musical entity out there that we can be compared with. It’s a completely unique, strange and wonderful thing to be a part of this aggregation.

Trey Henry on bass

Trey Henry (Bass)About the Band

I'm not sure if anyone makes the decision to be a musician. I think, generally, an individual enters into an innocent relationship with a musical instrument and the only choice is what that instrument is. This relationship is not unlike other relationships one experieces in life. It has its ups and downs, challenges and tribulations. Whether or not it's a life long relationship depends on a delicate combination of several factors.There's a vast difference between "playing" an instrument throughout a lifetime and being tortured, rewarded and constantly humbled by one.

So, if one is lucky enough to make one of these disfunctional relationships work and come to some sort of an agreement with the instrument, the next step is to find a place to play it. This provides an entirely different type of challenge. Now you're dealing with personalities, agendas, schedules, musical taste- some pretty touchy stuff. I believe the playing situations you find yourself in have as much to do with your musical future as anything and given the proper discouragement, an instrument could end up back in its case for good. It would appear, then, that the development of a professional musician is a truly special thing-a perfect storm of successes, failures, encouragement, friendships and yes, luck.

I think if you ask any athlete, CEO or artist if they could join a team for 1 month that would allow them to do what they do best, however they want to do it, and it would result in something unique-something that moves people, they would jump at the chance.

With the Tierney Sutton Band, I've been given such an opportunity for 15 years. In that time, there have been many changes individually and as a group. But through all of it, there has been an undying obligation to create as a team. This does not come without a cost. It requires tremendous patience and faith in the process. But the result is something few artists get to enjoy, music invented by a group of like-minded individuals that pushes each of them to the limit.

I'm fortunate to sit next to some of the greatest musicians in the world on a daily basis in my "other musical life" and it occasionally occurs to me that most them have never experienced a moment of what I've enjoyed for a decade and a half.

 

The Tierney Sutton Band Shines

 

If you want to hear audio samples of the Tierney Sutton Band CDs just click the "Music" link and you will be able to hear samples from all of our recordings.
~ Christian