Teachers of self-actualization often use an exercise where you stare into another person’s eyes for a long time. If you’re not used to it, your eyeballs can go spastic. If you’re practiced at the exercise, all kinds of things can happen: Sometimes the person in front of you morphs. Their face literally changes so that it becomes like watching a special effects movie.
Listening to jazz singer Tierney Sutton’s new CD, Desire, is something like this. The songs — standards including “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” and “Cry Me a River” — morph meanings the more you listen. One time the “you” referred to in the lyric “It wouldn’t be make believe if you believed in me” might mean some object of desire or craving; another time, something else.
Sutton prefaces and ends the CD with lines of sacred text from her Baha’i faith, first bemoaning our misplaced allegiance to stuff, then releasing us to something greater. She and her fellow musicians (pianist Christian Jacob, bassists Trey Henry and Kevin Axt, and drummer Ray Brinker) consciously made a work of art poking at greed and the out-of-whack cravings that led to our current recession.
But like all great art, this work transcends the intentions of its creators. It is a magnificent meditation. And meditation, by definition, is what happens when an individual gets really still — an experience as unique as the individual having it.
So there can be no interpretation of this brilliant mosaic of music and lyrics. Whatever you feel is true — whether you find yourself in contemplation of a self-sabotaging path, which self-honesty may lead change. Whether you're exhilarated by a romp through all that is human, dark and light. Whether you thrill at the brilliance of lyrics like “If my throbbing heart should ever start repeating that it is tired of beating, then I’ll be tired of you” — and suddenly you're wondering who is speaking to whom? Are you the speaker or are you being spoken to … by All That Is? Whatever your meditation, you know only that it is good.
Meditation defies description, but imagine this: You are standing in between two mirrors — one in front of you, one behind. You gaze into the reflections within the reflections. Where do they end? Do you want to know where they end? That is Desire.
The 11-track CD releases this month, and if there were ever a case for buying a whole work rather than single tunes, Desire is it.