December 2003


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Merry Christmas from Songs Of David!


 This month we have an interview with Saxophonist Greg VailGreg is a wonderful musician & also played with many top artists.  Greg has a new  Christmas CD entitled, "Christmas The Hymns". The featured CJA download this month is " We Three Kings" from Greg's new release and features both him and son in a musical collaboration! The CD also features legendary keyboardist Rob Mullins!

Also don't miss out on the free Christmas Mp3 downloads from our own CJA artists! There is a wide variety of your favorite Carols and Christmas songs! Download them and enjoy them this Christmas. Besides the CJA Christmas Mp3's there is also a collection of Christmas Mp3's from other jazz  artists also free to download. It would be hard to find a better collection of Christmas Jazz Mp3's anywhere on the internet!! Click on the CJA Download link located directly below on the far left of this page!

The article/devotional this month is, " What If He Hadn't Come To Earth?", by David Arivett. It will definitely give you some things to ponder as you enter Advent and the Christmas season!

 CJA News & Noteworthy!

 New CD release by Christian Jazz Artist  Bradley Sowash!

When Saints Go Marching  Hymns & Spirituals For Solo Jazz Piano, Vol. II  Following on the heels of his critically-acclaimed bestseller We Gather Together, Bradley Sowash unleashes When Saints Go Marching; Hymns & Spirituals for Solo Jazz Piano Vol. II. Alternately exhilarating and peaceful, Swing Lo Sweet Chariot, America, and Down By The Riverside are powerfully reinterpreted by an original jazz master. Audio Excerpts can be found here

New CD release by Christian Jazz Artist  David Diggs!

Just released!! David's new CD jazzwerk includes 6 new songs, plus all 12 songs from Eklektrik DVD (double CD on one). New songs feature Rachel Diggs, Steve Lukather, Joey Heredia, Vinnie Coliauta, Brandon Fields, Bobby Rodriguez, and others. Audio excerpts can be found here:

New CD release by Christian Jazz Artist  Michael Ripoll!

New Release by talented guitarist Michael Ripoll produced by Kirk Whalum. This CD features some great Latin smooth jazz with tasteful guitar playing by Michael and Kirk Whalum on sax. Need we say more??? More info here:

 CD by Christian Jazz Artist David Arivett!

Keyboard Meditations is a perfect CD for the winter season! "Be ready to be transported to a peaceful and serene place with Keyboard Meditations by David Arivett. David's music definitely has therapeutic qualities! Beautiful pianos and lush orchestral pads compliment his wonderful compositions and skilled keyboard playing". Audio Excerpts here: 

Christian Jazz Artist Alex Acuna recently receives two 2003 Latin Grammy nominations!

Alex is also scheduled to play at Don Grusin’s World Jam. He’ll be reunited with some old friends – Lee Ritenour, Abraham Laboriel, Patti Austin, Harvey Mason, Dave Grusin and Nathan East to name a few. The closed concert will take place on September 24th, but will be recorded for DVD distribution.

Coming soon!

Smooth Pizzazz Radio! Smooth Jazz with Pizazz! A radio program featuring Christian Jazz Artists!


Have you visited the Songs Of David Jazz Ed page? There is instructional material from some of the very top names in Jazz ! Legendary Keyboardist Rob Mullins keyboard book is our most recent addition so make sure and check it all out!

                                                 CJA Faves

This months CJA CD favorites is provided by guitarist Michael Ripoll.
1) Mike Stern - "Mood Swings"
Truly inventive ground breaking fusion guitar playing at it's best. The title track Mood Swings is amazing. Jaco played bass....need I say more?
2) Miles Davis - "Kind Of Blue"
In my opinion the best jazz record for the newcomer to jazz. It's understated yet the pinnacle of what improvisation should be.....naturally relaxed & effortless.
Miles, Cannonball, Coltrane, not too mention the rhythm section!
3) Wes Montgomery - "Full House"
A live recording that I think took place in Europe somewhere. Don't quote me on that I could be wrong. Anyway, truly Wes at some of  his most inventive, inspired, moments. He tears it up with 10 minute solos that take you on a amazing ride with out getting bored! For me, he's the best guitar player that ever walked the earth as far as melody is concerned. He understood it.
4) Flaxable - "Steve Vai"
The pioneer of rock guitar academia. Steve is an alien. He takes the guitar and guitar music to the next level!!!!!! The records hot spots - Viv Woman, The Attitude Song, and the song about a junkie, sadly enough. (though I can't remember the title)
5) Tommy Sims - "Peace & Love"
For me, Tommy is the epitome of a musical genius! Though I've had the pleasure of working with him, my opinion is not biased. There are many amazing musicians who would agree with me. As far as the record's incredibly listener friendly but at the same time a musical masterpiece. Yes he does it all: writes epic songs, plays every instrument, (although he hires other great players to compliment his style as well.....), arranges strings/horns...., sings lead vocals and arranges BGV's, & to top it all off, he produced the whole record while not sounding one dimensional. Best of all, he's a believer who loves God and spreads His message through awesome music!

                                        Free CJA Downloads

  Our free featured CJA Download this month is " We Three Kings" from Saxophonist Greg Vail. Don't miss out this great download! For more info on His CD follow the link below.

Also don't miss out on all the free Christmas Mp3 downloads from our own CJA artists! There is a wide variety of your favorite Carols and Christmas songs! Download them and enjoy them this Christmas. Besides the CJA Christmas Mp3's there is also a collection of Christmas Mp3's from other jazz  artists also free to download. It would be hard to find a better collection of Christmas Jazz Mp3's anywhere on the internet!! Click on the CJA Download link located directly below !

Here is the link:

                               CJA Interview with Greg Vail  



1)  When did you start developing a love for Jazz music?


Greg: I was raised in a musical family with my Grandfather playing all the woodwinds and loving Jazz. I had a sax as early as I can remember; 6 years-old or so; and remember sitting glued to the TV, watching the Lawrence Welk Show, just waiting for the sax players to make the shot. I loved the old jazz very early on, but it was middle school Jazz Band that really hooked me.


2) Did you study Jazz formally and if so where?


Greg: No. I was a Classical Sax Major at Long Beach State. I studied a little Jazz, but I was introduced to Classical styles, and really lost myself in them for most of my formal education.


3) Who do you consider some of the main influences on your writing and playing jazz?


Greg: That is always changing. I believe "Influence" must come from many sources and never stagnate. If you have just 1, you will become a lame clone of that guy. If you have 3 or more "Influences" that are effecting your styles and concepts, you will never sound like any of them, yet always be moving forward in your personal playing. With that said, I am really loving the new Brecker CD with winds and strings -- very artistic and fresh. I am having a serious relationship with Keith Jarrett and Jan Garbarek's music again and I do work with one of the most talented Piano Players alive, Rob Mullins. I have been stealing musical ideas from him for years now.


4)  Do you ever find opportunities for playing jazz as a Christian Jazz Artist in churches? ( I have discovered recently several Christian Jazz Artists who are promoting “Sanctuary Jazz” worship services using Jazz  as the predominant style. There seems to be a new trend towards using Jazz in worship and I find that exciting!)


Greg: I am playing all the time in the church. Over the past few years, there has been a real shift in my workload from the Smooth Jazz World to the Church. Most of the music I play would be considered Pop, but most of what I do is considered Jazz. I can tone it down and play a nice Pop solo for the CD, but out and live; it's gonna be a little stretched and more aggressive.  All of my travel, over the past 3 years has been Church related. Most of my CD discography, as sideman, has been Gospel/Contemporary. Both of my new projects recorded on my personal label are Christian Jazz Music. I would have to say, this Christian Jazz Artist is playing at Church all the time, traveling all over the world, exported to thousands of Churches worldwide thru conferences, webcasts and online Church services and known to most folks as a Christian Sax Player. They tend to be more surprised by my career outside of the Church as a Jazz Artist. It is pretty funny because years ago, people where all freaked out if I played at their Church.


5) Tell us something about your new CD's "The Gospel Truth " and "Christmas, The Hymns"?


Greg: When I finally had a little artistic control and money – (now that needs to happen for more of us!) - I started my own label and recorded tunes I thought were great. "Christmas, The Hymns" was my first release. I took all my favorite Christmas carols and took a list to my partner’s studio and we went to work. Rob Mullins and I had 2 things in common. We wanted to record songs we really loved, and we wanted to do a CD that honored the MUSIC and not the RADIO airplay folks. Artists don't make great CDs these days; they take 10-12 tracks and try to give RADIO a hit single. (12 tracks of the same basic song with the attempt of hitting the perfect combination for serious rotation.)Sorry guys - Just my take on it.  SO... We took 12 Christmas Favorites and arranged them to be true to the lyric content while approached as instrumental jazz. Every attempt was made to focus on the content of these classics with only the melodies and a great imagination. "Deck The Halls" is totally festive. "Joy To The World" takes it up one more notch, 3 more times - Very full of Joy. "We Three Kings" is the Funky track, representing the 3 funky guys, with all the cash, dressed to kill and bringing gifts from afar to baby Jesus. I even used my son on this track, casting him as the third king (musically speaking).Sorry ... just a quick example of what I mean when saying true to the Music. "The Gospel Truth" CD was birthed in much personal pain and the music that helped me thru it. My Church exposure was touching me thru the music I was playing. I took some of my favorite worship choruses and allowed my passion and connection to these songs to be produced by Mullins and myself, creating some Instrumental Jazz Worship tracks that have touched many that are not Christians at all. Ahh, the power of Music with Purpose...


 6) What was it like working and recording with Rob Mullins on some of your CD’s? (He is an incredible Jazz pianist and composer as well!!)


Greg: Rob and I work great together. We have been doing this for a long time and it is pretty, second nature, recording with him. He is a real talent and a total joy to work with. I am really blessed to have him in my life!


7) Many people have a misconception about smooth jazz, that it is all Kenny G, laid back and romantic, ect. Kudos to you for your Smooth Jazz CD, “Emotion”, which has been described as “Smooth Jazz with some funk on it!” Personally I love jazz that gets funky as well! What are your comments concerning this? 


Greg: Music has to be real or it is just wasting everyone's time. I have a lot of musical styles I love and keeping it real is the only issue to me. Who I am as an artist will always encompass taking it out a bit and stretching out while still playing pretty Pop and Jazz styles at the same time. Jazz is a huge category of different music styles. There is a time for introspection and a time to celebrate. I love them both.


8) Tell us more about the Blues CD you recently recorded with Bobby Cruz for Mike Moreno at New Life Christian? Is it “Christian Blues” or what?


Greg: It was really fun. Mike wrote a book on depression and wanted to record some songs about having the blues in a blues style. I don't get to do much blues recording so it was extra fun for me to take this job and add some real classic rock playing to it. The topics cover having the blues, but focus on getting out of the funk and participating in life again. Kinda... Christian Blues with some answers on top?


9)  Do you find a spiritual connection in playing and writing music? Some writers consider the creative process to be a gift from the Creator and feel the spiritual connection very strong while writing music. What are your thoughts concerning this?


Greg: If you have God in your life, everything has spiritual merit. It does not have to be just a Sunday morning thing. Our lives are supposed to be a living sacrifice and we are told to give everything back to God. Writing is no exception. Since all good things come from our Father above, there can be nothing really good without that spiritual connection, including the actual material.


10) How do you feel about the new worship music being produced today?


Greg: Some of it is great. A lot of it is just copies of the music in the world. There is good and bad theology in the music. I think the most significant thing is the heart of many of the new artists for God. I think the sad part is the business of making music, even in the Church. If it's real, if it is from the heart, it is amazing!


11) Are you still doing projects with Maranatha and Vineyard playing Sax? If so tell us a little about your work with them.


Greg: Vineyard recordings have become a thing of the past since my buddy that ran the Record label passed away a few years ago. I am not really sure what they are doing now. Maranatha has a new studio not far from me and I did just finish an instrumental CD for them of the classic Maranatha stuff this summer. Really pretty Soprano stuff and songs I already knew and loved, so it was great fun.


12) What is your favorite church hymn and why?

Greg: Amazing Grace because of the blues approach you can take with it and because of the overwhelming truth that it is both amazing and grace that allows us to participate and relate to the Creator of the Universe at all.


13) What has been your most challenging project that you have ever worked on?


Greg: I would have to say my own CDs. The reason being, I took everything I am to the table; every instrument, all my abilities, and then allowed Rob to push me as hard as he could to really make an artistic yet intensely spiritual statement with each track. It was very involved and really amazing to take the responsibility of presenting these songs with artistry and passion.


14)  You have played and produced for many top names in Jazz...what future goals do you have planned for yourself as an artist and a person?


Greg: You know that one is impossible to answer. We are not supposed to say, "Tomorrow I will go out and buy this or that, because we don't know if we will even be here tomorrow." (That is Greg's revised, sub standard version.) I hope to record more music. I plan on playing where God wants me and what God wants me play. I pray He allows me the time and resources to do any one of 4 CDs I have been thinking about. I want to record an old-school Christmas CD, totally traditional approach. I want to do another Rob Mullins Band CD, a Greg Vail CD with Pop feel and more real Jazz blowing on it, and have a hymns and praise CD planned with harp and the small, pretty little instruments I play. We will see how that works with some time, but these are the projects spinning around in my head this month.



                                            Featured Article  

What If He Hadn't Come To Earth?

I would like for you to consider the following scenario…what if Jesus hadn’t come

to earth, that there was no Christ child, no incarnation, and no Christmas? Try to

imagine what History would look like for the last 2000 years without Christ,

without His words, and without the New Testament!


I believe that total chaos would have ruled the last 2000 years! Without the

influence of Christ and Christianity on History evil would have scored a total

victory. Think of all the humanitarian efforts, the building of hospitals, the healing

and feeding of countless millions. Multitudes of people’s lives that wouldn’t have

been changed by the message and power of Christ! Without the message of the

birth, life, and death of Christ and His influence on the world the possibility exists

that none of us would be here today because of a nuclear catastrophe! But if

mankind had somehow survived total annihilation what kind of society would

there be without the influence of Christ on our world?


Then imagine further with me that Christmas never was and never to be! No

giving of gifts, no cheerful acts of kindness, Christmas carols or Christmas trees!

No Churches, no Cantatas, and no Holiday cheer. No stories of the wonderful

birth of the baby Jesus. No message of hope, joy, or peace on earth, good will to

men? No message of loving one another. Worst of all, NO CHRIST!


More importantly, what difference would it have made in your life if Christ had

never existed or been born in your live? Yes, that is the question that really can

make you think! What difference has Christ made in your life? Where would you

and I be without having ever heard the story about how God decided to become

one of us and, "pitch His tent " with us to dwell in human flesh? The Apostle Paul

writes in chapter two of the book of Ephesians that we should remember what we

once were without Christ! Paul says that we were without hope!! And that really

does sum up what it would mean for the whole world but especially for those of

us who have experienced Him in a personal and intimate way.


It is so easy to get caught up with all the shopping, ceremonies, music, and

celebrations to take for granted the glorious Incarnation and miraculous wonder

of the Christ Child. Maybe it’s time to pause for a moment right now for us to lift

our thanks and gratitude to God for coming to earth and for the incredible

difference Christ has made in our lives .To be grateful for the gifts of hope, joy,

peace, and love. Think of all the evil things He has delivered you from and praise

Him for it!! Taste of the joy and peace that only Christ can give right now!


Martin Luther wrote these words long ago but they are still very relevant. He said,

"We must listen not just to history, but to a gift "! Most of us will hear the

Christmas story several times over the next month. We will look back into history

to recall what happened that glorious night long ago. But as we look back let us

not forget the wondrous gift that came bundled up, wrapped in love, and sent

from heaven to bless all mankind! Furthermore let us look to the present and may

our prayer be that the Spirit of Christ "be born in us" today, fresh and new. May

we honor and serve Him by following His message and doing what He said for us

to do. Share His message of love, hope, joy, and peace to others not only at

Christmas but moment by moment throughout our lives. May we never take for

granted the wonder of the Incarnation. But also remember that the miracle of His

birth is re-created over and over again in the lives of all who will receive Him and

let His Spirit be born and grow in their lives!


Let me leave you with the words from one of the great Christmas carols:

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray,

Cast out our sin and enter in;

Be born in us today.

We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell,

O come to us abide with us;

Our Lord Emmanuel.



Written by David Arivett

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