Big Band Tag Team

Chris Walden and Tierney Sutton Hit SOhO

by Stanley Naftaly

Chris Walden is a truly brilliant big-band composer/arranger. His first American release, Home of My Heart, was nominated for two Grammys and his new release, No Bounds, is a fascinating example of intelligent, forward-thinking, and powerful writing and playing. Last year, Tierney Sutton was voted jazz vocalist of the year by Jazz Week, nominated for the jazz vocalist Grammy, and currently is nominated for the Jazz Journalist Association’s female jazz vocalist award. The two of them brought down the house at SOhO last summer and are poised to do it again on Monday evening, June 12.

Walden could read music before he could read writing, and classical piano lessons started at age 7. He took up the trumpet at 13 and discovered jazz at 14, when he heard Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie’s Live at Birdland. As he puts it, “From that moment on, I was hooked on bebop.” He started writing for big bands at 16 and has never looked back. Today, he has an enormous discography in Germany and here.

Sutton talked about the difference between singing with her group — a trio — and fronting a big band. “With my band, I’ve been an integral part of the creative process. With a big band, you try to honor the arranger’s ideas. And you have to really know the charts well, because the ideas contained in them inform what you’re going to do.” She went on to describe how, with her trio, if, during a performance, she changes something, they can “go with her.” With a big band it’s not going to vary from the tracks, so it’s precision above all else, while still leaving room for a bit of improvisation.

This is a chance to see one of the best modern big bands in the country with one of the very best jazz vocalists in the world. Don’t miss it.

4•1•1 The Chris Walden Big Band featuring Tierney Sutton plays SOhO on Monday, June 12, at 8 p.m. Call 962-7776.

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