This is a Joni Mitchell-tribute record, but not in the jazzy way you’d expect from Tierney Sutton. Think of After Blue as more of a meditation on Mitchell’s work than a tribute to her.
“All I Want” has a spring in its step thanks to some pizzicato from Turtle Island Quartet cellist Mark Summer. The plucking gives it an extra lilt that seems even more appropriate than straight-ahead swing. And the instrumentation is spare—just Sutton’s precise voice and Summer’s cello.
My favorite track is “The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines.” Between Hubert Laws’s flute-y accents and Peter Erskine’s percussion, you’ll be reaching for your hepcat beret and dark glasses. Yeah, man.
And you can’t mention Joni Mitchell without talking about “Big Yellow Taxi.” Sutton sings almost a capella, backed only by drummer Ralph Humphrey.
In the end, the unintentional theme of After Blue isn’t entirely Joni Mitchell. It’s sparseness. And it’s not that Sutton doesn’t have the chops to fill out a large ensemble. She does. But the genius of the record is Sutton’s ability to complement the songs with her own talents, so that we can hear the brilliance that’s always been there.