Network Interview With David Arivett
When did you start developing a love for Jazz music?
David: When I was about 13 I started learning how to play the piano by ear. I started listening to the singer Lou Rawls and keyboardist Ramsey Lewis and by ear started transcribing what the keyboard players were doing. Also listened to the British piano player Nicky Hopkins, who was an incredible blues pianist! Also my family attended a Pentecostal church and even though it was primarily a white church there were plenty of piano and organ players who loved Black Gospel music, jazz voicings, ect. And so it was church where I developed my taste for Jazz and swing!
Did you study Jazz piano formally and if so where?
David: Prior to learning how to play the piano I had 7 years of violin and viola as well as sang in the top choral groups in my school. So I could read music but piano music was somewhat difficult for me to read since I had started out learning to play by ear. But when I went to college and immersed myself in Music Harmony and Theory that really let the sunlight in! I became the accompanist for the College touring choir! ( but still ended up improvising what was written ha-ha-!) If I liked what was written I played it--if not I did my own thing!!! But this method really helped me with my writing and improvisational skills!
Who do you consider some of the main influences on your writing and playing Jazz?
David: I love gospel music and there are many great piano players in churches that use jazz voicings mixed in with blues and r&b. Joe Sample, Jeff Lorber, Ramsey Lewis, Bob James, Rob Mullins and many others. These guys have great chops but they are all great writers as well! Many played in churches and the beautiful thing about playing in church is that you are constantly reminded of the spiritual connection between music and God!
What I listen for is the melody, groove, harmony, and changes and how they have an overall emotional effect on me. Music has to touch the emotions in a deep way. Of course emotions can be of almost an infinite variety but music has to say something that involves feelings or else I don't continue to listen for long.
Of course great soloing and a high level of musicianship is also admirable. But what sets up the soloing is the way the groove, changes, and arrangement builds the song to create whatever feel and emotional character the particular song is structured to create.
Also over the years I have developed a great love for Latin rhythms and jazz that includes a Latin feel. I love the Bossa Nova and the Samba! This has influenced my writing and Jazz compositions of late.
How often do you get to lead Jazz in worship services?
David: I am very fortunate where I lead worship at on Sundays! I use jazz-flavored worship music every Sunday. Something funky, something that swings, something Latin or Brazilian, whatever. But I also use a variety of styles as well. And I am also careful not to let the music get in the way of the words but rather make the music enhance the lyrical content. It might be a hymn or it might be a chorus.
Why did you decide to start an organization for Christian Jazz Artists?
David: Because I saw so many great jazz artists who were Christians but many were not connected or plugged in to other Christian Jazz musicians or even aware that they existed! And I felt that there was a real need for all of us to unite and join together for the greater good which means increased exposure for our music and our message!!
Many Christian musicians take a passive stance toward promoting their music and their message. I can almost picture God saying, " What are you waiting for? How easy (and boring ) would it be for us if all we had to do was to wait passively until God " opened the doors" for more engagements and opportunities to play? We have been given the talents and the abilities to not only create beautiful music but also to get out there and open some doors for ourselves and for others! ( This is not to imply that there isn't a proper place and time to "wait on God"!) In the book of Jeremiah it says, "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength", but a better translation is, " They that look upon the Lord shall renew their strength!" Sitting around thinking, " one of these days" just doesn't cut it!!!
God gave us the gift of writing and playing music for a reason and sharing our music is part of his desire for our lives. His Spirit can energize us and give us strength and desire to share the music He has so graciously given!
By sharing our ideas and working together we can accomplish much more than what just one Christian Artist can do by himself! Drops in a bucket really add up to a full bucket!
I noticed that the Christian Jazz Artist Network has really been growing lately. Why such a sudden and dramatic burst of interest?
David: I think one of the main reasons is because Christian Jazz Artists are realizing that there are many, many others artists just like themselves who have a love for God and Jazz.
Secondly, many churches across the country have gotten tired of hearing and singing cute little, "campfire songs"! Many of the worship songs being written today all sound the same and they are so predictable. Jazz has a lot of energy and there is freedom to play or write something different. And when everyone is playing with energy and purpose the spiritual energy comes through and the whole congregation or audience senses it! Listeners want to hear more than just three predictable chords in a song!!
Finally, I believe it is God moving and working in all of us to savor the wonderful music He has given us and unite for the purpose of being able to touch many lives with the good news! It is time to wake up, smell the coffee, and make the most of the days that we have because every day, every breath and moment is a gracious gift and handout from the Creator!
It is very exciting and encouraging to see all the renewed interest by Christians who love to play Jazz! Even the younger generation is picking up on it. ( See the press release in this newsletter about a group of younger musicians, "Denver & The Mile High Orchestra" who are playing Big Band Swing across the country!!) We must see to it that Jazz isn't lost on the younger generations coming up. We must celebrate our music and never stop educating and promoting it...even when you sometimes feel your music is falling upon deaf ears!!!!
What can Christian Jazz Artists do to get more exposure for themselves?
David: Network with other Christian Jazz Musicians. Don't isolate yourself in a studio only creating music and new CD's. Start thinking of ways to find and create more opportunities to play out in the public. Call Pastors at churches and look for other Christians who might be interested in helping to promote Christian Jazz Concerts, Jazz Vespers, Jazz Worship workshops, whatever. There are many Christian Jazz Artists who are starting to play at Christian Coffee houses and I think that is a fabulous idea. Just imagine if people in cities all over the country opened up coffee houses where Christian Jazz Artists could play and give jazz lovers the opportunity to not only hear great Jazz music but also be able to hear and experience first-hand the spiritual connection between music, creativity, and God!
If you are writing or arranging Jazz flavored worship music, make sure that you use it in your worship services. Share your arrangements with other worship leaders and CJA members. Collaborate with other Christian Jazz Artist.
We are presently looking into organizing an annual CJA Network Jazz Festival to be held in a major city once a year. We have also been contacted by promoters in other countries and will be endeavoring to take some CJA groups to Jazz festivals everywhere! But it will take the efforts and cooperation of all the CJA Network members as well as many others who have a real love and vision to see Jazz promoted and played by Jazz musicians who happen to be Christians!
Sit down and brainstorm about ways to promote your Jazz music as well as the music of other Christian Jazz Artists and then follow through on those ideas!
Tell us about some of your more recent recordings.
David: Well, the last few years have been very busy for me! In 2002 I recorded 4 CD projects. One is "Island Fun" which is what I like to call "tropical-flavored smooth jazz"! There are some Latin influenced jazz on that CD but there are also a sprinkle of contemporary jazz as well. Then I recorded "Keyboard Meditations", which is much more reflective and meditative piano and keyboards. I also recorded, "Prayerful Mediations", which is a mixture of Hymns and worship choruses melded together to create an atmosphere conducive for prayer, meditation, or just for quieting yourself before the Lord. The other recording is a worship CD with a variety of styles with the Christian Vocal group, "Fresh Fire" entitled, " Are You Ready?". I wrote all the songs and they along with many others are available for purchase for use in churches on the Songs Of David Web Site.
I am very excited about the new upcoming CJA Network compilation CD! There are 16 Hymns that have been arranged in a very wide variety of jazz styles. Some are instrumental and some have vocals. I believe it is one of the finest collections of "jazzed-up" hymns ever compiled! We are working very hard to get national distribution for this recording and are also working on getting distribution in other parts of the world as well! And this is only the first of many CJA Network CD's I want to see released!!
You have started an Internet Radio Station, "Smooth Pizzazz". What's that all about?
David: Smooth Pizzazz is an internet radio station that features many Christian Jazz Artists recordings ( not only CJA Network members!) There are also other top secular Jazz artists music played. Then I have some inspirational quotes ( nothing overtly preachy) weaved throughout the broadcast. Of course many of the secular Jazz artists also have a spiritual quality in some of their lyrics and music. ( After all everyone is made in God's image and whether they profess to be Christians or not the fact still remains that the Creator gave them the gifts they possess. So in that sense it is still music that gives God glory whether they mean to do that or not!!) It is a great station to listen to whether you are a Christian or not! And the listening environment is very conducive for those who are "seekers" to hear jazz music that is inspiring and that has a definite spiritual impact on it's listeners!!
The station is doing quite well. We are already ranked 17th out of more than 100 Jazz stations on Live 365!! The plan is to take the program and place it on FM stations as well.
What is the most memorable worship service you have ever experienced?
David: I would have to say one of the worship services at a church in Southern California where I used to be the Music Director and Worship Leader. It was a pretty large church, (about 2000) I had some horn players that were phenomenal ( some were playing on the Johnny Carson Show at the time) so they could read and play the high notes! I had about a 80 voice choir and a great rhythm section as well!
We started playing this song that the Brooklyn Tabernacle choir used to do, "One Less Stone" and it has a gospel swing feel. When all of this was energized by the Spirit the building seemed to literally be "rocked" by the presence of God! I mean, I felt totally overwhelmed by the presence of God while playing the 9'ft. Concert grand! Many of the players we hired each week became believers because they recognized that there is just an entirely different dimension when people give their all in music to the glory of God! Nothing else quite like it!!! It is what I call "close encounters of the first kind"!!!! Of course one could say that it was just because there were so many people and that is why the place seemed energized. But I have experienced the same thing in my car by myself when the presence of God
embraced me in such a deep way without the worship teams, band, and Orchestra! I wouldn't suggest that this is or should be the norm but oce you have tasted of living water nothing else even comes close!
What is your favorite church hymn and why?
So many of the older hymns are really wonderful so it is really hard to
choose just one.
But the key to the hymns for me are
the words and content. Having spent years in Bible College and Seminary
have helped shape my outlook on Church Music. Take the lyrical content
away from the hymns and there is still merit to the music but it doesn't
have the same meaning or impact without them. But one of my favorites has
to be, " O To Be Like Thee ". The last phrase of the chorus says," stamp
Thine own image deep in my heart"! That sums up what being a Christian is
all about...to put into practice in our everyday lives what Jesus taught.
Not just to sing clever songs about Him but to do what He said! I have
recently re-introduced an old chorus at our church and here are the
To Be Like Jesus, To Be Like Jesus
All I ask Is to be like Him
All through life's journey
From earth to glory
All I ask is to be like him!
CJA NETWORK INTERVIEW MAY 2004
© 2000 Songs Of David