Admittedly I am sometimes not the most open minded person in the world. Both contemporary and straight ahead jazz are currently in flux, artists are reaching out to draw influences from other countries and other musicians previously not associated with any jazz genre to speak of.
While C. Michael Bailey wrote the liner notes and not being remotely close to a fan of the more mainstream jazz media which is for the most part lacking in integrity in every possible form and fashion one can imagine, Jacqui Sutton has managed to pull off the impossible and create perhaps THE critics worst nightmare in terms of a release to review.
Deftly blending a most unique fusion of jazz and bluegrass along with her own personal influences, Sutton has hit upon a sound that will leave most critics scratching their heads and some record executives looking for a length of rope and rickety stool. To slap an arbitrary label on Notes From The Frontier would be like leaving your hat on during the National Anthem. There is something delightfully Americana yet presented in a form and functionality that merges a plethora of influences while never losing the jazz sensibilities that seem to make this release so captivating.
A neo-soul riff on the classic "Summertime?"...well, it works! Sutton then goes deeper into her musical bag of tricks by taking a bluegrass favorite "Hummingbird" and doing an odd metered reharm to pay tribute to the great Dave Brubeck's "Blue Rondo a la Turk." The standard "Nature Boy" morphs into a tango...Frontier jazz that can only come from deep in the heart of Texas. As a recovering pseudo-intellectual in the jazz world, every fiber of my being tells me this is not a recording to spend more than five minutes on. However, Sutton's voice which has the ability to paint a very vivid sonic story board combined with some incredibly inventive arrangements have me coming back for more. Sutton is a sonic time traveler of genre, form and functionality and has found an incredibly diverse musical landscape from which to work.
Jacqui Sutton takes the term "organic" to a whole different level in one of the most artistically creative releases for the year. Granted, I am still scratching my head but when music of this magnitude makes you think then that is a beautiful thing.
Tracks: Summertime; Lady of the Harbor; Hummingbird/Blue Rondo a la Turk; Jenny Rebecca; Freed; One and Only; Nature Boy; Dear Friend; Where the Music Comes From; Weary Angel; Blue Mountain; Better Than Anything.
Personnel: Jacqui Sutton: vocals; Paul Chester: banjo, guitars; Anthony Sapp; basses; Ilya Janos: percussion; Eddie Lewis: trumpet, flugelhorn, piccolo trumpet; Henry Darrah: keyboards, trombone, melodion; Lyndon Hughes: drums, background vocals; Aralee Dorough: flute; Bob Chadwick: irish flute.