By Hannah Rainford | Staff Writer
Whitworth University’s music department, along with Speakers & Artists welcomed internationally acclaimed jazz vocalist Tierney Sutton to Cowles Auditorium on Saturday, Dec. 3.
The nine-time Grammy nominee performed alongside the Whitworth Jazz Ensemble, under the direction of Assistant Professor of Music, Jared Hall, and the Whitworth Symphony Orchestra Strings directed by Whitworth Professor of Music, Philip Baldwin.
Sutton and the student ensemble premiered an original jazz song set, composed by Brent Edstrom.
Edstrom worked with Sutton a decade ago when she performed with the Spokane Jazz Orchestra. “She and her fabulous trio are well-known for their innovative treatments of jazz standards, and I had her in mind since the beginning of the project,” explained Edstrom. “I reached out to her as I was starting the composition process and she was interested. After composing a number of songs, I followed up with sheet music and piano recordings and she expressed her enthusiasm for the project.” The Whitworth professor and Sutton will record this work in LA in January with drummer Jeff Hamilton and bassist Jon Hamar.
The interdisciplinary set performed was inspired by Willa Cather’s novel “The Song of the Lark,” and intended to create an opportunity for the university’s community to be exposed to one of America’s “most important early-modern novelists.”
An early 20th-century American novelist from Nebraska, Willa Cather penned “O Pioneers!,” “My Antonia,” “Death Comes for the Archbishop” and “The Song of the Lark,” among other narratives. “Unfortunately, she doesn’t seem to be as well-known on the west coast, but her writing is powerful,” said Edstrom. “It has been such an honor to explore her work and turn her prose into song, and I hope the songs will help more people to explore her work.”
Sutton additionally hosted a clinic the evening prior to the debut of Edstrom’s composition for Whitworth students and members of the Spokane community to enjoy.
“The chance to play with a top-tier artist is thrilling and can have a positive and lasting impact,” Edstrom said. “Guest artists can be inspirational and it is useful for the students to learn about performance, the music business, vocation and other topics through the experiences the artists bring to campus.”