Jazz, cheese cake and hidden words

On Friday night we went to The Birchmere in Alexandria to see Tierney Sutton, a Grammy-nominated singer known to apply Baha’i consultation while collaborating with her bandmates. It was an outstanding concert of three brilliant musicians and a perfect-pitch vocalist able to turn the happiest song into a dark, reflective melody or a funeral-ready tune into a joyful dance. The paradoxes they like to explore, while musically very different, remind me of the Wedding and Funeral Band of Goran Bregovic; then again the theme of musical contrasts is not atypical for New Orleans Jazz either. Which leads me to the surprising observation that the concern was attended almost exclusively by a white audience of a certain age. Now, I am not a jazz expert but for whatever reason I was always under the impression that jazz has always had roots in the African-American tradition — at least that is what I recall from the days I was running a small music store in Bulgaria, selling the tapes of the jazz greats of yesteryears: Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, and you can go on… But this probably proves once again that sometimes I just don’t fully understand this country… At any rate, back to the wonderful concert…

When Tierney Sutton showed on stage, I immediately noticed next to her two cups of cold coffee, “The Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys” by Baha’u’llah. The sweetest surprise, however, was when in the beginning of a very mellow piece whose arrangement she said was first performed only two days ago at the Carnegie Hall, she started reciting the following spiritual gems:

Busy not thyself with this world, for with fire We test the gold, and with gold We test Our servants.

To the eternal I call thee, yet thou dost seek that which perisheth. What hath made thee turn away from Our desire and seek thine own?

(Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words)

Now, that was the true dessert for me — even better than the terrific raspberry and chocolate cheese cake 🙂

Tierney Sutton, image courtesy of the New York Times

Photo of Tierney Sutton Band, copyright of Richard Termine / The New York Times

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