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Welcome to the Christian Jazz Artists Newsletter!
March 2004

A monthly e-newsletter from Songs Of David designed to keep you encouraged, informed, and aware of all the helpful resources that are available to you as a Christian jazz musician, worship leader, worship band member, or just a jazz lover!  

~ This Month's Issue  ~ 

Interview with Keyboardist/Composer David Diggs!

Featured Article: Are You Really Listening?

Also make sure that you visit the CJA page and listen to the great music all of our artists create!  We are very proud  to have so many talented Jazz artists part of the CJA!

Visit the CJA page here! 

Smooth Pizzazz Radio now on the air!

Songs Of David now has a Internet Radio Station featuring Christian Jazz Artists playing jazzed up arrangements of traditional Hymns, worship choruses, and everything in between!! There are inspiring quotes and inspiring music by great Christian Jazz Artists. Please spread the word about this new station...get yourself some decent speakers hooked up to your computer because this is being broadcast at CD quality! There are also many top Jazz recording artists music being played as awesome collection spanning several decades!

You might have to get yourself some better computer speakers because this broadcast is at CD quality! Listen to it at work or at home while you work or answer e-mails! Help support the CJA and spread the word as well.

Tune in--just follow the link below!

Hear Smooth Pizzazz Radio here

Coming soon! CJA Compilation CD!

We are very proud to announce our first CJA compilation CD featuring CJA members playing Jazz arrangements of Hymns! This CD will contain an awesome variety of hymns. Some songs are funky, some are mellow, some have a Latin feel, and some have great horns blowin'!  We are shooting for a early spring release!! The CD will be available online so keep you ears and eyes open for it!

Christian Jazz Worship!

Hallelujah! Jazz Revival is here!!! There is a huge increased amount of interest in using Jazz arrangements in worship! Check out the CJA Worship page for some great audio samples and resources! We have  The Jazz Hymnal, Jazz Psalms, and other great charts and resources to help you to start integrating jazz into your worship services!

Hear Christian Jazz  Worship here
We are getting more and more requests for horn charts (even Big Band) If you have any charts and want to make them available on the CJA pages just let us know and we can make it happen!  
Free CJA Downloads!
Each month we have free downloads, Mp3's, midi files, and charts.
CjA member Gary Hallquist's Samba rendition of
"Savior Like A Shepherd"
This is from Gary's Jazz Vespers CD and you can get it  here
"Oye La Musica"  MP3 Download
Jay Althouse's choral song that has wonderful lyrics and a great Afro-Cuban feel! ( It also goes along with the theme of this months featured article below! )
Featured Midi File Download:
"Devon's Delight"
Devon's Delight, written by Ron Johnston for his son, is a medium-up swing trio rendition in the key of C. In the initial chord progression, Cmaj7, Gb7b5, Fmaj7, the Gb7b5 is the tri-tone substitution for C7. Performed by: Ron Johnston. 
(These midi files are provided solely for educational purposes. You can open them up in your sequencer and follow along with the score. You can slow down the tempo for deeper analysis!)


Todd Billingsley

Great Jazz Hymn Arrangements for the Worship band 

Horn Charts Available!



We Shall Overcome

 Thought provoking, yet highly singable jazz material for use in the Sanctuary!




Jazz Psalms

Daniel Richardson











   CJA Featured Interview With David Diggs


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

As far back as I can remember, jazz was very appealing to me.  On the rare occasions where a black gospel or otherwise jazzy tune would show up in church (such as the Clara Ward Gospel Singers), I would sit enthralled by the sounds.  I also remember catching a TV show called “Cal’s Corral” once in a great while, which was actually probably bits of Texas swing, but it sounded great to me as well.  Groups like the Paul Butterfield Blues Band held great fascination for me, but the first real jazz album I got was the Jo Jones Trio which included Ray Bryant on piano.  I wore the grooves off that vinyl, which led to the pursuit of Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, and many others.

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

I studied jazz piano privately with Dick Powell in Orange County, CA, then arranging with Bill Baker, orchestration with Albert Harris, conducting with Alan Fierman, but the main influence was Dick Grove, with whom I studied privately in Hollywood prior to the inception of his jazz school.  Dick made it all happen for me, and I really enjoyed his concept for big band writing - sort of in the Gil Evans bag.  I also took college courses along the way and amassed a few hundred thousand units in stage band, including at L.A. City College which included players like David Paich, Jon Clayton, Don Grusin, John Hernandez (Oingo Boingo), and various members of Buddy Rich’s band, whom I heard by traveling 2 blocks from my home to Disneyland, and paying the 60 cents child entrance fee.

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

There are so many, I hardly know where to begin. Actually Burt Bacharach had a big influence on my compositional style.  I loved the way his melodies jumped large intervals, and also loved his unexpected harmonic surprises.  I always loved Quincy Jones, and ate up the Buddy Rich Big Band albums in junior high featuring the writing of Don Piestrup.  Also in junior high the Sergio Mendes albums had a large influence on me, including the beautiful arrangements of Dave Grusin.  Michel Legrand was probably the major arranging influence with his adventurous soaring strings – a sound I discovered from viewing the Summer of 42 film.

4) You have mentioned Claus Ogerman and Bob James as influences on your music. How did that come about? I discovered Claus via the gorgeous Jobim albums, of which I have many.  I love his classically influenced style, and found it to be the perfect compliment for Jobim’s melodies.  And Bob James’ early albums for CTI were also very harmonically interesting and provided “lessons” for me.

5) What was the nature of your involvement with Quincy Jones?
 Quincy called my answer machine and asked if I could do some arranging for a couple of Japanese tours he was doing, which of course I was thrilled to do.  My only regret was not saving the recording of his voice – which almost made me faint initially.

6) You have a new CD release of your own, " Jazzwerk". Tell us more about that project.

Jazzwerk is a “double cd on one” that includes all 12 songs from our surround sound DVD-Audio “Eklektrik” plus 6 new songs – all in stereo cd format.  ( You can listen to audio excerpts and purchase David's CD here  )

7) There are some tunes on your new CD that have a Brazilian/Latin influence.  Share with us where that influence comes from. ( By the way I really love the tune "Stumble" which is a mixture of jazz and R & B from your Jazzwerk CD!)

Glad you’ve enjoyed Stumble – thanks.  As earlier mentioned, I’ve always enjoyed Brazilian music, and have composed many sambas, bossa novas, etc.  “Sou Feliz” from Jazzwerk was a tune I recently wrote and gave to Ana Gazzola, from the group Brazil Brasil, and she was gracious enough to write some Portuguese lyrics, and also to sing the song on the CD.  Joey Heredia is an amazing latin/jazz drummer who plays in my group and always lends a latin touch to the tunes as well.
8) Who are some of the musicians that played on Jazzwerk?  

I was fortunate to have the great musicians from my live band – the above mentioned Joey Heredia, as well as Brandon Fields-sax, and Hussain Jiffry-bass.  The album also features my daughter Rachel, who is an amazing singer, composer, and performer.  Rachel wrote many of the vocal tunes, and sings a couple of mine as well.  We were also happy to have guest appearances by Jimmy Haslip from Yellowjackets, Vinnie Colaiuta of Sting fame, Bobby Rodriguez, Doug Cameron, Steve Lukather, and many other great musicians.

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

Probably a TV special called “Firewind” which was challenging in a bad way.  I didn’t yet understand the politics and physics of the music business, which is about 90% of what one has to deal with in a music career.  Other than that, most projects have challenges, which are what makes each of them new and exciting, allowing us the variety that we need as artistic people.

10) There is an unusual increase in the amount of Jazz that is being used in churches these days. This may be a response to many writers and musicians being burnt out on much of the recent alternative worship music. Share your thoughts about this.

I’d give Koinonia some credit along with groups like Seawind who pioneered the early appearance of jazz in contemporary Christian music.  I’d also say that some of the worship music is a bit simple in its lyrical content these days.  It’s hard to compare some of the simpler praise tunes which talk about “just believing and everything will be fine” to the amazing hymns that have withstood centuries and were written in many cases after major catastrophes such as losing one’s whole family – things like that.  Since jazz is such an expressive musical form, I think it fits like a glove with praise and worship to the One who created all music.

11) I noticed that recently you were doing a concert at a Christian College In La Mirada, CA? Was this specifically a jazz gig or what? Are you finding more opportunities to play jazz as a Christian Artist or are most of your gigs considered secular?
                                                                                                                                      I’m on the board of the Conservatory of Music at Biola University of late, along with Wil Kennedy formally of Yellowjackets, and some other great musicians, and Biola has a “Music at Noon” concert series which we’ve been blessed to play at the last 2 years.  The first time we played it was the 1 year anniversary of 9/11 so it was a somber event.  This last one was on Ash Wednesday and was also on the day of release of Mel Gibson’s Passion film, which was a much more positive day.  We love sharing God’s musical gifts with college students, particularly the great kids at Christian schools.  Otherwise, many of our gigs are at local secular jazz establishments.

12) Do you play keys in church? If so tell us a little about that.

I do.  We attend a small church in Westlake, CA called Rivers Community.  Being small, they have much more need for what I can bring to help with the music & worship.

13) What is your favorite church hymn and why?

I would have to say, “In The Garden” since it was sung by my mother’s 4 year old sister as she passed away many years ago.  I recorded a jazz version on the “Eye of the Storm” CD, and have since played it at both my father’s and my mother’s funerals, so it holds a special place in my heart.  It’s another example of the fine inspired truth of the Lord as He’s given it to us through the great hymn writers of history. ( *Note David’s jazz arrangement of “In The Garden” will be included on the upcoming CJA Hymn Compilation CD to be released very soon!)

14) Do you find a spiritual connection in playing and writing music? Do you feel a spiritual connection while writing music?

Yes, I do, particularly in those rare occasions when the song literally comes in minutes, to be written down on an available paper napkin – something like that.  Without being too mystical, all music is a gift from God and it continues to amaze me as it reveals His glory and truth.
15) Out of all the songs you have ever heard or played share with us one song that has really touched you in a profound way.

I played tympani in several different church performances of “The Seven Last Words of Christ” by Dubois as a young teen.  One of the “words” is a beautiful piece of music which goes something like “Verily thou shalt be, with Me in paradise today”.  I was very affected by that experience, and that was one of the things that led me to explore the beauty of the hymns, which I had previously found rather simple and (ahem) boring.  My mistake.
16) What future goals do you have planned for yourself as an artist and a person?

In many ways, I’ve accomplished a great deal of what I would have hoped to in my life.  I have a wonderful family, and even a grandchild now.  I’ve worked for many wonderful people for many years including Pat Boone, Richie Furay and others, and I would say just to continue to do more of the same, and to use His gifts to hopefully bless others in the process.  I’m enjoying electronica these days, in spite of some of the trappings of its origin (raves, etc.), but I’m always open to new ways to create the music we all love.


Featured Article "Are You Really Listening"

Are You Really Listening?


  I hear the rhythm of life in music,

I hear the rhythm of life in song;

I know the rhythm of life is beating,

Because the rhythm of life is strong;

I feel the rhythm of life around me,

Because the rhythm is everywhere...

Oye la musica de la vida ( Hear the music of life!)

( Lyrics from choral composer Jay Althouse’s song “Oye La Musica”)

These are words that catch your attention and are definitely worthy of further reflection! The music of life is indeed everywhere but the question is this -- are we really truly listening? Are we truly, "savoring the music"? Are we really grateful for the gift of listening and hearing? Or do we take it for granted?

Of course listening is a skill that most of us musicians really pride ourselves on and we usually give ourselves high grades in this area. Jazz guitarist/composer Pat Metheny once shared that, “My first relationship to any kind of musical situation is as a listener.” Careful, attentive listening is vital to a satisfying musical experience.

However, there are many different things you can listen for when listening to a recording. There is the groove, the changes, the words, the arrangement, the bass, drums, piano, horns, and many other aspects as well. You can listen to learn more about your instrument, hearing other people’s chops, improvising, and writing skills. And this is all well and good. But sometimes unfortunately it is easy to become stuck in a listening rut where you are only listening for certain things instead of listening to the spirit of the music and being able to respond to it. The French Composer Claude Debussy put it this way, "There is no theory. You have only to listen. Pleasure is the law."  And Keith Jarrett once said this, “Jazz is there and gone. It happens. You have to be present for it. That simple.” Wow! You have to be present for it. I would go even further and say that you have to be listening in the present moment, listening with an open heart and not with just your head!

I am reminded of the story of the Rabbi who had a member in his synagogue who always seemed to be in a hurry, his motor ( so to speak) always running at full throttle. The Rabbi asked him," Whenever I see you, your always in a hurry. Tell me, where are you running to all the time? The man answered,” I’m running after success, I’m running after fulfillment, I’m running after the reward for all my hard work.” The Rabbi responded, “ That’s a good answer if you assume that all those blessings are ahead of you, trying to elude you and if you run fast enough, you may catch up with them. But isn’t it possible that those blessings are behind you, that they are looking for you, and the more you run, the harder you make it for them to find you?”

I have a saying I use quite a bit that fits very well at this juncture--- “celebrate today and savor the music!” Take time to really listen to music. Slow down, turn off the TV and try to avoid any distractions. Sit down, relax, and savor the music.  Close your eyes and allow yourself to respond emotionally as well as intellectually to the music. 

But I would go further and ask are you hearing the music of life? Are you listening not just to recorded music but also to the "Oye La Musica"?  Author and Pastor Frederich Beuchner has written some really profound words concerning this.

“Listen to your life... I have discovered that if you keep your eye peeled and your ears open, if you really pay attention to it then it will open up to extraordinary vistas. Taking your children to school and kissing your spouse goodbye. Eating lunch with a friend. Trying to do a decent day’s work. Hearing the rain patter against the window. There is no event so commonplace but that God is present in it, always hiddenly, always leaving you to recognize Him or not recognize Him, but all the more fascinatingly because of that, all the more compellingly and hauntingly…If I were called upon to state in a few words the essence of everything I was trying to say as a novelist and as a preacher, it would be something like this: Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”

What a breathtaking statement! If we will take time to wake up and smell the flowers, ( and the coffee!) and start listening we will be able to hear the beautiful ‘music of life’ itself! Since God created life it is holy and to be treasured moment by moment.

German saxophonist and composer Uwe Steinmetz reflects on his reasoning for becoming a musician: "As I thought more about my motivation for becoming a musician, I discovered that I had two 'unbalanced' sides to myself. 'One side was the contemplative one, that simply liked to listen to music, read poetry and observe nature and the visual arts. In this way I discovered something like "God"--a manifestation of the eternal beauty and truth behind reality.' But I also recognized egocentric feelings 'that poisoned the message of my  music and influenced the way I interacted with others. My music had become just a form of self-expression. When I grasped the difference between what was really meaningful to me and the music that I was doing, I saw that I was heading for a dead-end street--both for my music and in my life.'

It is easy to get trapped in this dilemma if we fail to listen and recognize the gracious Spirit and giver of all that is good. Rev. Joel Miller exclaims, "We must take time to listen to the Spirit! In my experience, if we are really listening to the holy, the Spirit of Life is calling out to us: “Improvise!  Be Cool!  The beat is life, love is the key, and you’re all players, so listen and be funky.”  To be able to respond and improvise you must be listening!

Uwe Steinmetz went on to find a much deeper spiritual experience by listening and paying attention to other peoples needs, and by responding to the voice of the Spirit. As a result his music and writing took on a much deeper and more satisfying nature.  Our modern preoccupation with producing and consuming mass quantities can lead us to a place where we are left with nothing more but a unhealthy narcissist focus upon ourselves.

As a matter of fact when we truly are listening to the Spirit the music flows! To be in communion with that which is holy is the source for an infinite variety of musical expression! If we center ourselves only on the finite things we are missing out on an incredible amount of great music!! Many times we as artists become too concerned whether others are listening to our music instead of us really listening to the music of others, the music of life, and the voice of the Spirit.

Recently I read about this great interview on CNN with Tom Arnold, the comedian. He had just wrote a book and the interviewer asked him," Why did you write this book?"  Arnold said, "The reason I wrote this book is because I am a broken person, and I do things to get people to love me."!!!!

And most of us musicians are in the exact same boat as Arnold! We are broken people, checking our CD sales and other stats to see if we really are people of significance. We keep asking the questions, does my music and my life really matter? But the answer to this isn't really found in the amount of our CD sales, fame, or financial success from our music. On the contrary, our deep need for significance is answered by truly listening and savoring the gift of life, music, and God! Are you really listening?

  Written by David Arivett  Ó 2004 Songs Of David

( You can hear the song “Oye La Musica” by visiting the CJA download page. It is one of this months featured free downloads!)

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