GARDEN JAZZ AT LOTUSLAND

Jazz singer Tierney Sutton and her fine quartet perform their inimitable take on American standards amid the lush tropical gardens at Lotusland on September 17 in a one-off concert to benefit the facility. At surface value, the pairing may seem odd, but in fact there’s a lot to the combination that’s unmistakably appropriate.

Consider the parallels: one can employ phrases such as “organically grown,” “carefully cultivated,” “exquisitely arranged” and “gorgeously presented” to describe either Lotusland or Sutton’s music. Both are full of old-growth classics that have been painstakingly groomed and arranged so artfully as to overwhelm the senses.

In Sutton’s case, that comes from her never-ending mining of the Great American Songbook, jazz and pop standards dating back to Tin Pan Alley and Broadway, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and the Gershwins, material that has powered careers from Frank Sinatra to Dianne Reeves.

“It’s pretty fertile stuff,” Sutton said, appropriately tapping a horticultural reference to describe her attraction to the catalogue of classics. “The songs are so evocative, and they’re a part of the sonic landscape of our lives. Everyone has a sense of the melody. You know the words.”

But what sets Sutton apart from so many of today’s jazz singers is her devotion to deconstructing the songs and putting them back together again in fully re-imagined arrangements that have set “I’ve Grown Accustomed to (His) Face” over an initially droning piano. Or turned “The Lady is a Tramp” into a be-bop vamp. Or even amped up “Surrey with the Fringe on Top” into a frenetic, staccato duet of voice and drum. Her forthcoming as-yet untitled album – which ironically features the word “Happy” in every song – continues the trend, actually including two separate versions of both “Get Happy” and “Happy Days are Here Again” on the same disc.

Every thing is hammered out with the members of her fine ensemble – pianist Christian Jacob, bassist Kevin Axt and drummer Ray Brinker. It’s a truly integrated outfit, where each instrument is as important as Sutton’s voice, and is given its due in both concert and the rehearsal studio. Which is why Sutton responds to questions with “we” rather than “I.”

“You’d have to be very foolish not to recognize what I have here,” she says. ”They’re all accomplished musicians in their own right. Everyone in the band feels connected to what we do together because it’s a place where they really get to express who they are as individual musicians, so they remain invested.”

That camaraderie, which has only grown through the band’s astonishing 12 years together, often results in concerts that move beyond the music into something more mystical, a situation Sutton not only accepts but cites as a goal.

“We expect someone to levitate by the end of the night or we haven’t done our job,” she says. “It’s our goal to be transported ourselves, and hopefully that happens for the audience, too. The spirit of the room should be changed and altered, and we all want to get to this meditative spot.”

At Lotusland, where the flowers bloom year-round, the ancient trees purr in the soft summer breezes and the fragrances, sights and textures all tickle the senses, the band’s task should be readily accomplished.

“We never know what’s going to happen – or even what we’re going to play – until we get there,” says Sutton, who toured the gardens earlier this summer in preparation for the concert. “But there is certainly a lot of creative energy at Lotusland, and a distinct spirit to the place.”

(Tierney Sutton and band perform Sunday afternoon, September 17, at Lotusland, 695 Ashley Road. Gates open at 2 pm, with the music at 3 pm. A reception with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres follows and visitors can tour the gardens on their own until 6 pm. Tickets are $150. Call 969-3767 for reservations.)

Rhythms ‘round town

Blues royalty: Most blues nicknames have some connection to reality, and Lil’ Ed of the Blues Imperials is no exception. The slide guitarist stands only 5-foot-one but his fiery, blistering solos suggest far greater stature. The Imperials have recorded for Second City-based Alligator Records since the mid-1980s, offering good-time party blues, just the kind of fare that has made sponsor Santa Barbara Blues Society the nation’s oldest such organization. The party starts at 8:30 pm on September 16 at the Earl Warren Showgrounds. (Info at 897-0060.)

Bo knows: Rock and Roll hall-of-famer Bo Diddley has had a far greater influence on the development of pop music history than his chart success would indicate. He popularized the vibrating guitar solo that was at once as powerful and captivating as it was fun-loving and playful. His trademark rhythm now known as the Bo Diddley Beat has been copied by the likes of everyone from the Rolling Stones to Bow Wow Wow. But if a rock legend isn’t enough of a draw for this September 25 concert at the Lobero, the bill also includes Grammy-nominated acoustic blues singer-songwriter-guitarist Alvin Youngblood Hart and Ruthie Foster, who lends her powerful alto to a blend of gospel and R&B. (Info at 963-0761.)

Beck’s back: Was it really way back in 1966 that Jeff Beck first showed up as a wunderkind replacement for Eric Clapton in the Yardbirds? Even back then his innovative style powered the hit “Heart Full of Soul,” and while his stint only lasted 18 months, he’s spent the ensuing 40 years continually refining his style and approach, eschewing the kind of commercial success enjoyed by fellow ex-Birds Jimmy Page and Clapton in favor of ever-changing artistic exploration. These days he’s focusing on an electronic avenue for the instrument. You can hear his latest wizardry at the Arlington Theatre on September 26. (Info at 963-4408.)

Get outta town

The Tales from the Tavern singer-songwriter series has a new home at Santa Ynez’s Maverick Saloon this fall, and modern rockabilly queen Rosie Flores might just be the right artist in the right place at the right time. Nobody this side of Wanda Jackson can hoop and holler quite like Flores, who also has the ability to dig deep for heart-rending country ballads and tearjerkers such as “God May Forgive You But I Won’t.” Be sure to reserve your tickets for the rest of the series, too, which features Montecito’s Tom Rush on November 8 and Tom Russell on December 6. (Info: 688-0383.)