January 2004




Songs Of David Jazz Links


CJA Page

Jazz Ed Page

CJA Downloads






 Interview with CJA newcomer Chuck Mahronic.  (Chuck Mahronic has teamed up with the CJA and shares his exciting Sunday morning innovative Jazz worship experience at the church where he serves!)

The Free Mp3 downloads this month is " Three Jazz/Blues " offerings with three wonderful and very different offerings from Chick Corea and others!

We have several excellent articles by Bradley Sowash, Chuck Mahronic, and David Arivett.

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 CJA News & Noteworthy!

Welcome to New CJA members! 

Pianist Chuck Mahronic,  Vocalist Rhonda Mcoy,  and Saxophonist George Furlow!

We are very excited to welcome three new CJA members! Pianist Chuck Mahronic is an incredible pianist, arranger, and writer! He has recorded over 24 Cd's and has been a pioneer in using Jazz  music in the Sanctuary!

Rhonda Mcoy is an inspired songwriter,  worship leader and vocalist are just a few ways to describe Rhonda McCoy. Rhonda  skillfully blends contemporary worship and smooth jazz in her latest CD project .

Saxophonist George Furlow is a very gifted Sax player and musician! He has played on many popular worship CD's, including Ron Kenoly, Bob Fitts, and many other Integrity recordings!

Make sure you check out  their music on the CJA page!


Coming soon!

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

WANTED!! Jazz Worship Songs!

 Your favorite Jazz Worship song recording and chart. Songs Of David is adding a Jazz Worship page that will feature recordings and charts of favorite songs with a jazz flavor used in a worship setting. If you have a recording, lead sheet, or know of one you would recommend please e-mail us the info! David@songsofdavid.com


Have you visited the Songs Of David Jazz Ed page? There is instructional material from some of the very top names in Jazz including Rob Mullins, Tony Monaco, Dave Weckl, Jay Oliver and many others. CJA member Chuck Marohnic's "Jazz Hymns" is our most recent addition so make sure and check it all out!



 CJA Faves
This months CJA CD favorites is provided by Keyboardist/Composer James Ranka.

When I was asked for my top 5 favorite jazz albums, I was most happy to share how I ‘cut my musical teeth’ throughout my formative years. I  have always been more attracted to the artists who changed the mundane musical landscape in the 1970’s; groups and individuals who incorporated R&B, rock and Jazz in their writing and production. Call it jazz-fusion; pop jazz, melodic jazz… many labels exist. So please keep the above in mind as I list my 5 favorite “jazz” albums. We’re all unique in our tastes; our likes and dislikes. So…here goes:


1) “The Nightfly”, by Donald Fagen; released 1982 on Rhino Records.

 An incredible album composed by an incredible talent. The singing half of Steely Dan wrote and arranged music that began to influence my future compositions with this albums’ release. Tasteful, unique harmonies; impeccable engineering; the best studio players of the day all made for an incredible production.


2)  Chicago VII, released 1974, Produced By: James William Guercio

Forget the commercial songs  “Wishing You Were Here” and “I’ve Been Searchin”. The incredible jazz talent of the original group shines through on the instrumental cuts: “Aire”, “Devil’s Sweet”, “Italian From New York” and “Mongonucleosis”. I happened to be living in Austin, Texas when this album was released and was privileged to see and hear this gifted group play ALL of the instrumentals live at the Austin Convention Center. Guitarist, Terry Kath, who took his life later in a game of Russian roulette, would, in all likelihood, have become a world-renowned jazz guitarist if not for the demons that destroyed him. While he was with the group, his virtuosity and originality was drawing attention in pop, jazz and rock genres. Jazz drummer, Buddy Rich, said of then-Chicago drummer, Danny Seraphine, “He’s simply the best”. A super group; never fully appreciated for their genius.


3)  “Freetime”, By Spyro Gyra, released 1981.

A well-structured melody played against interesting harmonic change represents the essence of ‘pop jazz’. Spyro Gyra was and is THE group whose compositions reflected this knowledge. As a result, Spyro Gyra became a crossover sensation. As a keyboardist, my ear just naturally gravitates toward the piano or the keyboard instrument: Not in this case.The guitar riffs that Julio Fernandez imagined and so skillfully printed to tape were near perfection. His note bends and funky rhythmic chops captivated my ear over keyboardist, Tom Schuman. Schuman’s improvisational style is an original. So much an original, I can, in most cases, recognize a Schuman solo.


4)  “Blood, Sweat and Tears”, By Blood Sweat and Tears, released 1969.

An emotional roller coaster brought about by incredible feeling coupled with instrumentation variation. I listened to this album time and time again. To this day, I have yet to tire of the music.What can one say in describing the voice of David Clayton Thomas? His comment after recording “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy”, “It was one of those songs where I flew into New York and it was the first thing I recorded with the group. We walked out of the recording studio and every band member knew we’d just cut a hit record. It was magic from the first note to the last.”More magic came later with their version of “Fire and Rain” (not a part of this album). If you can find this version – download it! It’s an amazing arrangement. Every member of this super group was a great jazz player in his own right.


5)  “Earth Wind and Fire: Live in Japan”, Released 1990

One word describes this awesome production – ENERGY!

Every song on this ‘captured live’ CD represents compositional genius, positive, uplifting lyrics, incomparable live playing, tightness that should be heard to be believed. This CD represents all that is good about music from the band members’ individual virtuosity to the mixing and final mastering.

Maurice White, the group’s founder, is a producer on the level of Quincy Jones. White’s musical genius is apparent in songs like “That’s the Way Of The World”, “Serpentine Fire”…many, many others. “Be Ever Wonderful” is a contemporary arrangement of a jazz torch song that could be arranged in many different ways. The lead singer’s voice cracked at a crucial point in the song – but Maurice White decided to let the mistake reside in the burn. This IS a live concert, folks. The vocal mistake, the horn arrangements, vocal motifs and a cool 6/8 time signature make this my favorite song on the CD.


                                        Free CJA Downloads

  The Free Mp3 downloads this month is " Three Jazz/Blues " offerings with three wonderful and very different offerings from Chick Corea and others! These downloads are provided for study and educational purposes and the midi files have notation of all the parts to follow along with to facilitate learning! Take advantage of these resources!

 Don't miss out on these great downloads!  

Here is the link:


                               CJA Interview with Chuch Mahronoic  


1) When did you start developing a love for Jazz music?
About age 14.  The kid who lived across the street  was a tenor player and into jazz.  He was cool, or so I thought.  He even had a component stereo system; really ahead of the rest of us.  He turned me on to Horace Silver, Art Blakey, Bird, etc.

2) Did you study Jazz formally and if so where?
No.  I learned "on the street" as they say by playing with musicians and later in clubs.  Years later, I studied music in college, not jazz but then began a systematic study of jazz.  After a time, I began to compare my findings with others in education.  I later went on to become Director of Jazz Studies at Arizona State University for 23 years where I recently retired.  In all my years of teaching, I have always tried to give some of the "street" experience to the students.  I believe that's essential.  Nothing like human interaction.

3) Who do you consider some of the main influences on your writing and playing of  jazz?
Wayne Shorter, Miles, Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Monk and more.

4) What are 5 of your most favorite Jazz CD's. (if you had to choose just 5 which ones would they be?)
Miles - Kind of Blue (a must have CD for all musicians), Bill Evans - Vanguard Sessions,  Joe Henderson - Lush Life, Coltane - A Love Supreme and Miles - Live at the Plugged Nickel.  All of these are incredible recordings but there are more, or course.

5) Tell us about the 11:00 AM Jazz worship service you and your quintet play for? What instruments are involved?
The 11am service is called the Studio.  It is a jazz-based, multi-sensory church service that we jokingly refer to as "church for people who don't like church".   We use all the arts and integrate them into weekly thematic material.  it is an extremely challenging and creative atmosphere.  The pastor and associate pastor are two young, talented, bright people who celebrate the arts.  Twice a month we have what we call Gospel Jazz where we get down with hard grooves and feel good music coming from the black experience.  Once a month we have my jazz trio with a vocalist and once a month we have Chamber Jazz. This is an opportunity for me to write and arrange for a variety of guest artists from the jazz community both locally and internationally.  Normally I use a jazz quartet with a vocalist, however, sax, piano, bass and drums.

6) What kind of audience comes to the 11:00 Jazz service and how much participation do you get from the congregation? What is the average age of the people that gather for the service?
The congregation is varied.  It cuts across all lines, young and old, multi-cultural, etc.  The one thing they all share is a love for the Studio experience.  Once someone experiences this service and like it, they are hooked and can't go back to traditional services.  I try to involve the congregation in varied ways from traditional hymn type singing with jazz arrangements of course, to jazz raps, trading 4's or 8's with the band, etc.  We'll try anything.  The main thing is to involve the congregation with the music so they feel a part of the music making experience.

7) Where do you get the material you play at this service? Hymns, original music, or what?
From all sorts of places.  Fake books for secular music that addresses thematic material, church hymnals where I usually reharnonize and original compositions.

8) It seems as though there is an increased interest in using Jazz in worship. Are there other churches doing this that you know of?
Yes.  I recently attended a conference at Stony Point, NY called Jazz in the Church.  Rev. Bill Carter, Presbyterian minister and jazz pianist started this a few years back.  I met many musicians there who are bringing jazz into the worship experience.  One of the main features of my ministry is to bring jazz musicians and their music into the church.

9) You have recently published the "Jazz Hymnal". Please share with us more about the contents of that book.
The Jazz Hymnal contains original songs along with jazz arrangements of traditional hymns.  The book contains about 50 arrangements, mostly keyboard, but with some horn parts.  It is designed to act as a supplement to the library of a working church musician.  Once someone gets into the book, they begin to see things that they can do with other music and hopefully create their own arrangements.

10) Do you find a spiritual connection in playing jazz music? What are your thoughts concerning this?

Definitely. I believe that God has given each of us a way to connect with him.  For musicians, it is music.  Once we get past the fundamental obstacles of playing an instrument an begin to experience the music, we become faced with the responsibilities of playing with others and sharing musical ideas.  The more we do this and the more we open ourselves we eventually come face to face with the Creator.  I believe that one cannot be a creative individual without coming into contact with the Creator.  And when that happens, all I can say is.....hold on.  It just gets more profound and humbling.

11) What is it about Jazz music that you love so much?
Jazz puts me into the present moment, when I allow it and get out of the way.  It is in the present moment that we find God, not in the past or future.

12) What is your favorite church hymn and why?
Amazing Grace for it's great melody, lyrics and its simplicity and transparency.  All great music has these qualities that allow for endless interpretation.  

13) Are you working on any new CD projecst of your own? Tell us a little about some of the Cd's you have recorded.
At present, I have a new band and am writing new music.  The musicians are all great players who also write.  We are looking into many new things and hope to have a recording completed within a year.  I have to date, recorded close to 30 CDs that vary from solo piano to a Jazz Nonet (nine piece band).   I have recorded for major labels and with great people but most of what I do now is church oriented.

14) What has been the most challenging project that you have ever worked on?
Learning how to let go and let God do the work.

16) What future goals do you have planned for yourself as a artist and a person?

I try not to think of goals.  For most of my life, I was goal oriented, always planning something or some project to work on, but since I have retired and have taken myself out of the working mode, I just try to offer each day to the Lord and try to be open to His marvelous gifts.

                                             Featured Articles  

                Birth Of  a Jazz Ministry                    Seven Deadly Sins Church Musicians Make     

   Another Year To Be Thankful

Birth of a Jazz Ministry

   By Bradley Sowash

  In the Fall of 1998, I approached a church in Columbus, Ohio with a new fund-raising concept. I was looking for a way to combine my vocation as a jazz musician with activism through a church hosted benefit concert. I'd heard that this parish had a history of outreach missions and a reputation for incorporating liturgical arts into their worship so it seemed like a likely venue.

As it turned out, they loved the idea. A date was set and we determined that the proceeds would help fulfill their commitment to B.R.E.A.D, a coalition of area churches working on local social justice issues. The church provided the performance space and a decent piano. Their promotional support included announcements in their bulletins and newsletter, posting my flyers, and plenty of healthy networking among friends and family. My contribution included playing in their Sunday morning service during communion and the offertory to introduce the congregation to my music and style. That evening, I performed a customized range of piano music from original meditative music to joyful reinterpretations of familiar hymns. I thought to myself..."my compensation lies in helping out a great cause and attracting new fans that I might never have met."

The concept worked. The first concert was successful and mutually beneficial by all accounts. A substantial turnout resulted in raising $800 for B.R.E.A.D. and the church's decision to temporarily become a concert presenter enhanced and confirmed its' visionary reputation. I was pleased that combining family entertainment with fund-raising for a deserving organization had proven to fill seats and make money. People told us they were more willing to attend the event due to the benefit factor. After the concert, I heard comments such as, "I wasn't sure I'd like this, but I thought I'd come anyway since it was for a good cause. I'm sure glad I did. What a great concert and a great idea."

A few weeks later, they invited me to bring my music to the Sunday morning experience. Working with volunteer church musicians, a hired soloist, and a specially -created liturgy, we presented our first jazz worship service.  The place was packed, we had a great time, and the church leaders decided to make it a monthly event. Now in its fifth year, these jazz worship services are often their most highly attended services.

Through these experiences, I began to consider sharing my music in other church services and concerts.  I’d found a new kind of ministry  which I was interested in expanding.  The word got out and I began to get calls from out of town saying,  "add our name to the list of supporters who really love your music!"

When a Columbus clergyman accepted a new position in Buffalo, NY, he asked me to perform for his installation service later adding a full-scale concert.  The organizer of a concert to benefit a church-based drug recovery center in Seattle inspired me to go further through warm remarks with a thank-you letter.  "Our cathedral has been the site for a whole range of excellent musical presentations, and your jazz concert opened our audience to a whole new musical experience in this historical space. The quality of your work and the expression in your playing made the evening you were with us one that will be remembered and commented upon for years to come. It was truly breathtaking!”

The support continued.  A jazz worship service and benefit concert at a cathedral in Minneapolis led to these comments.  "I want to thank you for everything you did and all that you brought to us last Sunday at St. Mark's -- the whole community has been absolutely floating since then... It looks like we did quite well with the fundraiser. Money's still coming in, but last I checked, at least $10,000 had come in. I hope we will be able to work together in the future. Thanks for all your willingness, openness, and for sharing your special gifts with us."   Looking out from the piano for that evening’s concert, I was flattered to see that renowned jazz singer Bobby McFerrin had decided to attend.

Today, my jazz ministries have expanded from jazz worship services and sacred concerts to include guest speaker and workshop leader appearances at church conferences.   As a pianist and composer, all of this inevitably influenced my music.  Seeking a musical style that combined jazz with sacred music, I set about creating new arrangements which  were eventually released on subsequent recordings with companion volumes of sheet music published by Augsburg Fortress Press.

  These are just some of the blessed events I've enjoyed since beginning this concept. Church appearances now outnumber my ‘secular’ concert schedule.  I'm performing more often, serving through my music and helping out good causes.  It feels great!

© 2001 Bradley Sowash


                                           Seven Deadly Sins

7 Deadly Sins Church Musicians Make -
and How to Avoid Them

by Chuck Marohnic

Deadly Sin #1:  Depending too much on written music
This is a frequent problem. Church musicians have been trained to read music and often forget to listen to and analyze what they play.

Advice:  First, memorize more of what you play. Second, try to understand the chord functions in the piece, namely the dominants and tonics. You will begin to see repeating patterns. Harmonic and melodic phrases from one song often look like those in other songs. Try composing a piece similar to the one you are reading. Note the piece's architecture: the form, the phrase lengths and the melodic motifs. Try to follow this pattern in your composition. Learning these skills will help you hear more of what you play and free you from the music on the written page.

Deadly Sin #2:  Duplicating ensemble roles
Many church musicians find themselves in ensembles that are thrown together with volunteer musicians from the congregation. Often, these groups are made up of several guitars plus a keyboard player. These situations result in harmonic overload, meaning too many people are playing the harmony.

Advice:  Think through each musician's role in an ensemble. Not everyone needs to play at the same time. For example, if you have six musicians in your group, you can form many different quintets, quartets, trios and even duos simply by asking certain people to "lay out" and not play for a passage or two. Try this proven orchestration technique. You may be surprised at how much your group's sound improves.

Deadly Sin #3:  Failing to stay up to date on technology
Ah, the wonder of technology, or should I say nightmare . Church organists often find themselves facing the issue of how to play and use the synthesizer. This is due to the demand on church musicians to play more "pop" oriented music.

Advice:  Don't view the synthesizer as a replacement for your instrument. Instead, look at it as a helpful addition. Invest a little time with your new synthesizer and you'll discover how to embellish your performance on the organ or piano by adding sounds. For example, using a synthesizer patch, you can gently add strings to a melody or melodic passage. In this way, the synthesizer becomes a wonderful orchestration tool.

Deadly Sin #4:  Not learning jazz harmonies and voicings
This is one of my favorites. Unfortunately, music degree curriculums are jam-packed with required courses. What's more, most theory programs ignore the importance of jazz. As a result, music students and church musicians often don't have (or take) the opportunity to enroll in a jazz class, such as jazz keyboard harmony or jazz theory. Fortunately, things are changing with the advent of the Eastman initiatives that now include at least some jazz in most courses.

Advice:  Invest a little time studying jazz harmonies and voicings. Start by taking a summer workshop with an experienced jazz pianist. Or study on your own with a good jazz method book. You can find method books by Dan Haerle, Mark Levine and Bill Dobbins. Also, I invite you to consider the book I wrote, Jazz Keyboard Study, published by Advance Music. When you learn jazz harmonies and voicings, you'll dramatically improve your sound -- and find yourself in the top 5% of church musicians.

Deadly Sin #5:  Not learning how to improvise
Church musicians are often asked to just "play something" while an event within the worship service is taking place, such as a meditative moment. Or the musician may be asked to play background music during a reading. This is where improvising skills really come in handy.

Advice:  You don't need to be an aspiring Chick Corea or Oscar Peterson to improvise. When you improvise in church, you add a new, fresh dimension to your worship service. The jazz masters use many devices. For example, here's a simple one to get you started: Use the melody as your source. Within the melody you will hear a shape or motif that you can play sequentially by adapting it to the changing harmony. Find a three or four note idea from the melody and "shape" it to fit the chords. As you study the piece, you will discover many new ideas. Use them as well. Finally, invest in a few good jazz recordings. I recommend Bill Evans for pianists. Listen to the way he plays the melody and then uses fragments for his improvisational ideas.

Deadly Sin #6:  Playing in keys that aren't good for singing
Many songs in church hymnals are not written in keys that are comfortable for singers. Over the past 40 years, as a professional pianist, I've played for hundreds of vocalists. Early on, I learned I had to be flexible and willing to change keys to accommodate a singer.

Advice : Learn to transpose. You never know when your male or female vocalists will tell you that a song is in a difficult key. I recommend that you ask one of your group's singers to test out a key. Learning to transpose takes some effort, but it pays big dividends later. Vocalists love to work with experienced and sensitive accompanists.

Deadly Sin #7: Playing songs at the wrong tempo
Many church musicians play songs too slowly. Often, tempos need to be quicker and livelier.

Advice:  For each piece, find the optimum tempo that corresponds to the lyrics. You do this by reciting the words before you play them. Try to get a feeling for what the words say. Then adapt that speed to your music. Also, learn to listen to the singers. At times, you'll need to speed up or slow down to accommodate them. Most singers like to be led, but not at the expense of tuning them out.

With a little effort, you can avoid most -- if not all -- of these "sins". I encourage you to continue to grow as a musician and make the most of the talents God has given you.


                        CJA Devotional "Another Year To Be Thankful!"  

We at Songs Of David feel that music is an incredible gift -- something that shouldn't be taken for granted!  Not only that, but life itself is a precious gift! Consider the lyrics to " Every Day Is A Gift "   ( from the Fresh Fire CD, "Are You Ready?"). The musical style is Reggae with a light-hearted feel! It is a favorite worship chorus that we use every where we sing!


Every Day,  Every Day
Every Day is a gift from the Lord
'Mon don't even complain
Just begin to praise His name
For every day is a gift from the Lord!
Thank you Jesus
Thank you Jesus
Thank you Jesus
Thanks for another day!
To hear an audio excerpt of this song:
Accordingly, every day should be received with thankfulness. Every breath we take, every moment we live is a handout from a kind and gracious creator! 

Consider these recent findings:

  • 1) People who describe themselves as feeling grateful to God or creation in general tend to have higher vitality and more optimism, suffer less stress, and experience fewer episodes of clinical depression than the population as a whole.
    2) Grateful people are more likely to describe themselves as happy or satisfied in life.
  • In an experiment with college students, those who kept a "gratitude journal", a weekly record of things they should feel grateful for, achieved better physical health, were more optimistic, exercised more regularly, and described themselves as happier than a similar group who kept no journals on being thankful.
Psychology has ignored feelings of gratitude and thankfulness and its effects on the well-being of the individual. Gratitude research is beginning to suggest that feelings of thankfulness have great potential in helping people cope with stress, and positive self-esteem.
A man going through a "mid-life" crises describes going to a retreat where a Minister had them answer a question and it changed this mans life. The questions was, What can I love about today? What a tremendous question! Try this question out yourself and then use it on specific items as well. It could transform your life! Make a decision that you are going to make this year and the rest of your life one of gratitude and be thankful!

So let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts!  And whatever you do in word or in deed, do it all in the name of the Lord...And Be Thankful!  ( Colossians )

By David Arivett

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