“Desire” can mean different things to different people. For the Grammy-nominated singer Tierney Sutton, “desire” is an important enough concept to name a whole album after. As a longtime practitioner of the Bahá’í Faith, Sutton takes her desires, and those she sings about, in a highly spiritualized way. When she arrives at the Lobero Theatre on Friday, February 19, expect to hear tremendous straight-ahead jazz tempered by a community-oriented approach to music-making. I recently spoke with Sutton about some of the things she’s been going through, singing about, and recording.
Desire contains a lot of secular standards, but it begins and ends with spoken extracts drawn from The Hidden Words by Bahá’u’lláh. What inspired this frame for the music? The band and I have, for many years, been discussing the spiritual underpinnings of our interpretations, and this was the logical progression of things—to let everyone in on what was in the background. We had been experimenting with spoken word and prayer in the studio and decided that using a holy text to set the tone made sense. We pray before we take the stage together to play, so why not do it as part of the recording?
Speaking of desire, how do you balance the demands of your art with the temptations of being a celebrity? I’m a jazz musician at heart, and there are few things in the world more distant from “celebrity culture” than jazz. Our heroes were obscure even in their own time, and that’s still true today. I was speaking to Wayne Shorter’s wife, Carolina, about this two years ago at a Grammy event. How crazy is it that Wayne Shorter can go to the grocery store and no one recognizes him? But they will recognize the latest reality show star. But this is really okay. Jazz musicians aren’t playing for fame anyway. It’s about love.
You have been singing on quite a few film soundtracks recently. Do you enjoy doing that? What’s it like for you? Yes, I’ve had a few opportunities to sing on film soundtracks, and it’s always interesting to see what scenes you will end up singing over. For instance, when I did City of Angels, I was pregnant with my son, and the composer said, “Don’t watch this film … but I promise you are singing in a scene that is okay.” And in Twisted, I’m singing as they find a bloody body … it’s all part of life.
What can your devoted Santa Barbara audience expect when you return to the Lobero on Friday? For us, every performance is unique because we choose from more than 150 arrangements that we have created collaboratively—and we never do the same show twice. But beyond that, the Lobero may be our favorite venue in the world, and we have always had a truly joyful time playing there.
What is the most surprising CD one might find in your collection? I don’t know if it would be a surprise, but I listen to a lot of Michael Jackson.
The Tierney Sutton Band will appear as part of the Jazz at the Lobero series on Friday, February 19, at 8 p.m., at the Lobero Theatre (33 E. Canon Perdido St.). For tickets and information, visit lobero.com or call 963-0761.