Whenever incomparable jazz singer Tierney Sutton plays the Lobero, it’s a discrete event with a particular focus, such as her April 29 celebration of her uncommonly empathetic band’s new film music-centric album, ScreenPlay. Zooming out to Sutton’s Lobero legacy, her mutual love affair with the theater and its audience (she openly cites the Lobero as her favorite venue) reminds us of past Lobero moments.
Within the past half year, Sutton played an exclusive set with pianist Roger Kellaway and made a significant cameo with Pat Metheny last fall, offering the world premiere of a new Metheny ballad co-written with her friends Alan and Marilyn Bergman — a highlight of Santa Barbara’s 2018 music year. Fittingly, then, that she opened her recent concert with “Windmills of Your Mind,” also played by Metheny, shortly before the death of its legendary composer, Michel Legrand.
Cine-music has figured into the 25-plus-year Sutton band history, but was nudged to the forefront thanks to director Clint Eastwood, when the band supplied the score for Eastwood’s Sully. ScreenPlay showcases both the taut rapport of the players — stellar pianist Christian Jacob, drummer Ray Brinker, and bassists Trey Henry and Kevin Axt (making a rare joint appearance here) — and evocative fresh arrangements of songs we thought we knew.
Brinker’s “No Strings on Me” sets the cheery Pinocchio ditty into a brooding mood. Bassists Axt and Henry (one acoustic, one electric) deconstruct “If I Only Had a Brain,” Jacob disarmingly rethinks Grease hits, and Sutton cleverly medley-fies “Moon River” and “I’m Calling You” (Baghdad Café). In drum-vocal duets, Sutton also spun her speedy riff webs around “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” and “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead,” and summoned her sumptuous glow on a reharmonized “Sound of Silence.” In all, the concert stretched minds and ears, in a beauteous way. The warm Sutton-Lobero-crowd affair continues.