Comradery and community often explore the ‘something larger than the sum of its parts’ phenomenon. This sense of hyper-connectivity may be an unspoken reason music, especially jazz and praise music, draw our attention away from ourselves into our selves. Naturally we are first pulled into the sound and pulse of the song, and then perhaps our focus may shift to the personalities and talents producing the music. Occasionally, our inner hearing begins to inquire as to the orchestrator of our very breath and heartbeat. The singer, ‘took our breath away’, the drummer matched, even exceeded the pounding in our chest until we say, ‘my heart stood still’.
The art of articulating the holy, of revealing, and reveling, in a raucous reverence is a combination of underlying and overlapping themes. The fascinating unity of Creator and creation is reflected in being able to identify a musician by his or her sound. We judge them by their fruit. Ripe, delicious, hanging on a tender branch in the dawn lit dew. A note comes out of the horn and the heart of the player transferring the conception, perception and resounding perspective to the recipient. The listener listens in.
The Lord, sometimes, gets credit for inspiring such interaction. The word inspire breaks down pretty well into ‘in spirit’. “A little bird told me” is a widely understood explanation for a sudden transfer of insight or information. A jazz enthusiast might cite Jimmy Heath, the greatest living encyclopedia of jazz culture, as being THE ‘Little Bird’ in question. A Christian devotee might source the Dove of Peace. Is it important to give it a name? Can we acknowledge that sometimes music causes, or should I say pauses us to hear something ringing in ourselves that originates in the literal aural pulse of the cosmos?
Jazz asks questions of the Creator by coaxing intimate solutions of the complex and spontaneous juxtapositions of shared, but very personal experiences. The player who draws attention to himself may have a technician’s prowess of his (sic) instrument, but he is missing the spirit of jazz. We call it playing music, but the interplay among musicians takes a lot of work. Beautiful music succeeds in disguising the strenuous reality of preparation, practice, rehearsal and painstaking precision that goes into being perceived as effortless expression.
Joshua Redman speaks of the serious joy and visceral potency of playing live with an engaged audience participating in slicing pieces of a mysteriously universal pie. He credits the honesty of the moment as being a lubricant to the engine of growth that encourages the player, and the audience, to deal with it night after night. As Van Morrison sings, “There’s no need for argument, there’s no argument at all.”
In the 1980’s Horace Silver made a move to create his own recording label to feature five albums of healing holistic music. His concern that being so forward with a spiritual basis for music might prove to be damaging to his ‘secular’ career proved to be accurate and so his project folded into obscurity. I would love to get my hands, and ears, on those recordings. Mr. Silver would be one composer I would trust to explore the qualities of the God who gives God given talents. The phraseology of the Black Gospel swinging church almost reduces the call and response of a hand clapping, side stepping choir to a cliché`d soundtrack, but the profundity and impact of even the simplest Negro spiritual is of such historical importance as to tip the scales, especially the blue ones, towards eternal consequence.