Jazz Vocals

Sharing Memories Of Mom

09 MAY 08 ANNE FARNSWORTH

For Mother's Day, I asked two Concord Family artists, Grammy-winning bassist/arranger/bandleader John Clayton and Grammy-nominated singer Tierney Sutton, to share memories of their mothers and how they influenced their music.

Clayton has written for and recorded with the top Jazz artists performing today, as well as his Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. He is also a respected educator, serving as education director for the Vail Jazz Foundation and heading the Jazz bass department at USC.

He said, "To say my mother influenced our musical interests is an understatement. There was always music around. Mom played piano and organ and directed two church choirs. She got us piano lessons -- don't know where the money came from -- and insisted we participate in church activities, playing or singing in the choir. Mom actively supported our musical pursuits, eventually seeing us make more money in one night than she would make in a week. She comes to every concert she can and, what's really cool, always wants to pay for her own ticket. She's the most perfect mom one could wish for."

Critically acclaimed singer Tierney Sutton has recorded six albums for the Telarc label, acquiring an international fan base in the process. Her mother was a big part of the inspiration for her latest CD, On The Other Side.

"Mom had just died," she recalled. "Although she had enormous suffering in her life, she almost always described herself as a happy woman. This was something, since she was wheelchair-bound and brain-damaged. I started meditating on what our culture thinks of as happiness and decided there was a dark side to the constant expectation of 'happiness' in our culture. It isn't only unrealistic, but destructive to the human spirit. As a result, we approached the 'happy' songs on the CD with those ideas."

Tierney is a mother herself. She and husband Alan Kaplan, one of Los Angeles' top studio trombonists, are raising a son, Ryan.

"The path of a touring musician is a very tough one to balance with motherhood," she added. "If I didn't have a supportive, actively parenting husband, it would be impossible."