September CJA Network Newsletter
Welcome to the September CJA Newsletter! We are excited about our a
monthly newsletter about Christian Jazz Artists and their music! Each
month there is a interview with a CJA participant, an article about music
and how it relates to the Christian Jazz Artist, as well as a jazz song for
free download ( Mp3 ) and music chart from a CJA participant and other
great features! You will enjoy reading the newsletter so pass them on to
WHAT'S INSIDE THIS MONTH'S NEWSLETTER
This month we have an interview with Saxophonist/Composer John
Carlson as well as one of John's songs (free Mp3 song) to download,
including music chart (in Acrobat pdf format). Our featured article this
month is "The Joy Of Creativity", by Keyboardist/Composer David
Arivett. Make sure and check it all out!!
NEW CJA ARTISTS!!
We are very excited to have new CJA artists that have been added to the
web page! Welcome Drummer/percussionist Alex Acuna,
keyboardist/composer David Diggs, and guitarist Michael Ripoll ! Be sure
and check out their music and make them feel welcome. We are always
looking for other great Christian Artist to add to the CJA page so make
sure you spread the word to any Christian Jazz Artists!
Make sure to listen to the new CJA artistís music here:
NEW JAZZ EDUCATION PAGE!
There is a new Jazz Education page with absolutely great resources for
the Jazz Musician. Great material for taking your playing and musicianship
to the next level! Dave Weckl, Tony Monaco, and many other great
resources to check out! Here is the link!
Also encouraged is the sharing of CDís between CJA artists as well as emails
to get better acquainted with each other! Please, I encourage you to
e-mail another CJA member to get further acquainted!
Saxophonist Greg Vail also has a jazz discussion group, "All That Jazz"
located at the link below:
If you know of other Christian Jazz artists please share this newsletter
with them and have them contact:
CJA@songsofdavid.comto subscribe or for more info on how to become a
participant in the CJA!
If you missed our Premier July Issue of the CJA Newsletter you can
download the newsletter ( acrobat pdf ) here:
Each month we ask a CJA participant to list 5 of his favorite Jazz CDís and
share them with everyone. This is provided to give musicians a chance to
share with others what they love to listen to and what has influenced
them. The links to audio excerpts are to provide readers the location of
where you can hear brief excerpts and even purchase ( new or used)
(This months CJA Faves are shared by CJA Artist David Diggs)
1. Lyle Mays "Lyle Mays"- Lyleís one of my absolute favorite players Ė heís the
king at all things understated. Great technique, beautiful harmonic ideas, and he
contributes greatly to all of the Pat Metheny CDs as well. This, his first solo
album, is a little off the beaten path, but it really grows on you.
To hear audio examples follow this link:
2. Michael Brecker "Tales From The Hudson"- Once again it could be any of
Michaelís CDs, or any of the Brecker Brothersí CDs, but letís go with this one. Heís
perhaps the best jazz saxophonist on the planet, and this CD shows off his
composition talents as well. Heís surrounded by some great contributors includingPat Metheny, Joey Calderazzo, Jack DeJohnette and others. A great CD.
To hear audio examples follow this link:
3. Yellowjackets "Greenhouse"- I could have chosen almost any of the 20+
Yellowjackets CDs, but this one features some beautiful string arrangements by
Vince Mendoza. Vince has some interesting albums out from a few years ago Ė
which you can find on eBay if nowhere else. He also has done some great work
recently with Joni Mitchell. The perfect combination Ė Yellowjackets and Vince.
4. Donald Fagen "The Nightfly"- After 21 years or so, this album holds up as
though it were released yesterday. Great songs, great mood/vibe, and some great
playing by the L.A. session musicians including Jeff Porcaro playing like a drum
machine Ė yet with incredible feel Ė as usual. A perfect combination of jazzy,
obscure, sassy tunes.
To hear audio examples follow this link:
5. Aaron Copland "Third Symphony"- While not a jazz CD as such, thereís
tons of jazz in the writing of American treasure Aaron Copland. You can get many
different recordings of this great work Ė any of which will reward you with a
beautiful piece of music. Give it time to grow on you as well.
To hear audio examples follow this link:
CJA Featured Chart
"There Must Be A Place Called Heaven" by John Carlson
Make sure you download both the Mp3 and chart for this beautiful song
by Composer John Carlson!
Here is the link:
CJA InterviewJohn Carlson
1) When did you start developing a love for Jazz music?
John: My father had a lot of old big band LPs that I discovered at a young
age. I had a lot of music around me all growing up. In junior high, ourband
director took us to see Maynard Ferguson and that sort of sealed it for me.
2) Did you study Jazz formally and if so where?
John: Yes, I studied in HS at Jamie Aebersold camps, and then in collegeat
North Texas State University (now Univ. of North Texas) and Northern
Illinois University. And I listened to a TON of recordings.
3) Who do you consider some of the main influences on your writing and
John: Michael Brecker, David Sanborn, Bob Mintzer, Bob Berg, KirkWhalum,
Brandon Fields, Eric Marienthal, Basie, Thad Jones, Buddy Rich etc.
4) What are 5 of your most favorite Jazz CD's. (if you had to choose just 5
which ones would they be?)
John: 1.) Claus Ogerman with Michael Brecker - "Cityscape" 2.&3) Bob
Mintzer's "Horn Man Band" and "Incredible Journey" 4.) Eric Marienthal
"Oasis" 5.) Steps Ahead "Smokin' In The Pit" But many many more Icould think of!
5) I understand you played Sax with (and recorded with) Kirk Whalum.
Sharewith us a little about making music with him.
John: First, Kirk is one of a kind - as a person and a player. He's truly
a minister who happens to play sax. And what a player. No one sounds
like him. Totally unique sound and style. So vocal and so soulful.
Whenever I've played with him, his "vibe" and "attitude" is so strong that
it can't help but rub off on you. Just a total free, loose, soulful approach.
Kirk's the real deal. And he can play plenty of "real jazz" too. There's a
hidden track on his latest CD at the very end where he's playing Giant
Steps in 7/8 - he's got his stuff together for sure. On the recording
session we did together, he had never heard the arrangement before - not
that it was that hard or anything. But we just jumped into it and started
doing takes - the both of us playing facing each other with a shield
between us. We did like 6 or 7 takes and then took a break to listen to
what we had to work with, thinking we'd start doing some fixes or
overdubs. We didn't listen to the first one however, as we were just sort
of "learning" it and only considered that a scratch pass. When we got
done listening to them all, we had picked one that we thought gave us a
good place to start "fixing" and all. At the last minute, I suggested that
we go back and listen to the very first take just to be sure there was
nothing there we wanted. Low and behold, Kirk's playing on that one was
the freshest, the most inspired, and by far the best take. Everyone agreed.
Yet we almost wrote it off. We fixed two little things in his entrance and
exit, as, not knowing the arrangement, he didn't quite know what to
expect getting in and out of the solo. But other than that, it was pure first
take. I wish I could say the same for my part. But it engrained in me the
value that first takes when you're relaxed and just "messing around" are
often the best stuff. I've found this to be true time and time again. It may
not be the cleanest, but it's often the most inspired.
6) 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?
John: I remember a great classical composer said that it is impossible to
compose music and NOT believe in God. Music has always had a spiritual
connection for me because so often I don't know how I'm doing what I'm
doing. It's a very natural thing I've had since I was very young. There are
certain core "feelings" that I relate to with music that are so strong
and have always been with me - as natural as breathing - I can't help but
feel they're from God for a reason. I always felt my music had a deeper
reason than fame or fortune. And Heaven knows I have not found that! :-)
7) Tell us how the song you wrote, "There Must Be a Place Called
Heaven" came about?
John: "There Must Be A Place Called Heaven" was one of those songs that
came about as what I call a "gift" and essentially seemed to write itself.
The church I worked for at the time was doing a weekend message on the
reality of Heaven. I was looking for something different to do as our
instrumental offertory and finding nothing that I liked thematically
already composed, sat down that afternoon and just started playing the
piano - this song is the end result of something that just flowed very
easily as if it was already written - I have no other explanation!
Sometimes I worry that it IS something someone else wrote that's stuck
in my subconscious!. The title was a result of what became the "hook" of
the song at the end of the first phrase and if you sing the title over that
melody line it becomes obvious. The melody line came first. Then, in the
thought process of the weekend message and meditating at the time on
the fact that no matter what I face in life, how hard life is, or how much I
may doubt, still, there MUST be a place called Heaven - if not, what are
living for? That's where the title came and it just fit hand in glove with the
end hook of the melodic line in the first phrase and afterwards. Some
people have asked if there are lyrics to the song, and sad to say there are
not. I guess you could say it's a song in search of a lyric! But in some
ways, I like the idea of people being able to write their own words to it
and make it a personal prayer of their own. I was proud of the gift that
the recording was. The rhythm section was all recorded live together at
one time with the exception of the Pat Metheny inspired guitar solo by
Tom Vitacco, and some synth pads I added. The sax however was only
meant to be a scratch track for the rhythm section to play to, played along
in a small booth with a makeshift mic set up only to be temporary. My
intention was (to cheat!) and go back in and re-do the sax as we did on
most of the project. However when we went back to add sax, there was
something about this take and the synergy and groove that we all
had together and I couldn't seem to duplicate in re laying the sax tracks.
Initially I wasn't happy with the sax sound, my playing (I was very
tired when we did this one!) intonation etc. on the scratch, and it was
never meant to be final. I was way to close to it however. After several
weeks and coming back to it, God showed me in some unique ways how
well the whole take worked together and I couldn't take the original sax
out of it. Not that it's anything earth shattering or anything - but there
was definitely a "thing" (or "thaang"!) that happened that I couldn't
duplicate again. Hence the moral of that story is we all work too hard to
perfect and "re-do" when very often our best in when we are most
spontaneous and loose, not intending to give the "final performance" so
to speak. I hope this song is a blessing to everyone and that it becomes a
moment in your own personal prayer or worship to our Lord!
8) You spent many years at the highly successful Willow Creek Church in the
Chicago area. What were your musical duties there and how has that
experience shaped your life and views on contemporary church music?
John: I was responsible for music for my band, a rhythm section and 6 to 9
horns, for weekends services for approx. 20,000 people each weekend when we
were on. We rotated every 3 weeks with the other directors and their
ensembles. I arranged all the music, recorded sequenced tracks for demos and
rehearsals, shepherded the players, and also lead music for many of the
conferences that Willow does in the country and abroad. It was a very
demanding job as the stakes at Willow are very high and the pursuit of
excellence is very high. It was akin to working in live Television almost
each weekend with a different show of some sort each weekend. Weekends there
are not a worship service - it is a multi media/multi artistic presentation
of God's truth in ways that seekers can relate and learn from and have their
hearts opened to God and the Bible. Our worship services were amazing but
those were on week nights, which I participated in as a player as well.
Willow taught me the value of realizing how God uniquely gifted you and to
pursue that with all your might for His glory. And of course, instilled me
the passion for the lost and for seekers and reaching them in creative ways
that they can relate too, which many churches just don't by means of being
inward and not relating to the unchurched person.
9) I understand you are now a director of music for a church. Tell us a
little about the styles of music you are doing there. Are you able to
incorporate any Jazz styles, ect?
John: We do the usual fare of contemporary worship these days - Tommy
Walker, Hillsongs, Parachute Band, Vineyard, etc. Hymns that are rearranged in a
contemporary style and so forth. We do a little bit of the "smooth jazz"
thing once and awhile for prelude. While we have some very good volunteer
musicians, we don't have a lot of hard core jazzers so we don't go too far
in that direction.
10) How do you feel about the new worship music being produced today?
John: I like the fact that musically there is more meat to it than what I
remember early on as a believer. Back in the late 80s, it seemed so
elementary musically that it was hard for me as a musician to get on
Some of the real new stuff now - I guess the stuff that gets called "Post
Modern" - I'm not as into - I don't think there's a lot of creativity in
it and the musical maturity doesn't seem as strong. It's a little faddish
for me. Now, that doesn't mean it's not good worship music, or that I
worship to it. To me, worship is sooo much more than 30 minutes of
Sunday morning. I try to look at it as my whole life. But musically, it
doesn't do a whole lot for me. But I'm sure to many it does.
11) What is your favorite Worship recording?
John: Oh . . . . Maybe Tommy Walker's "Never Gonna Stop"? Mainly for
the period of time I was listening to it in and how it ministered to me in that
season of life - a very hard one. There's so many others of course.
12) What is your favorite church hymn and why?
John: Holy Holy Holy. My Dad always played this on our Hammond organ
when I was very little and the lyrics, harmonies, and melody gave me an
early picture of God in all his glory.
13) What are your plans for future recordings?
John: I'd like to make a compilation CD of the Preludes CDs. I'd like to do
CD of original songs. A CD of all hymns with like just piano, acoustic
guitar, etc. and sax. And perhaps a CD of all arrangements of Tommy
tunes. However I have to get out of debt and acquire some funding
14) What future goals do you have planned for yourself as a artist and a
John: I'd like to be doing more playing, recording and creative work, and
"work I have to do to make a living so I get to play every so once awhile."
I wish more church's would support and fund musicians and artists just to
what they do that offers such a unique contribution to the church and the
kingdom - so they didn't have to take all sorts of side jobs, or work in
the church as an overworked music director which is all too often the
We need more artists in residence programs so artists and musicians can
truly be just that. Right now my week is filled with all very good things in
ministry that consume me, but often, music and my own unique
the Kingdom musically falls to the side.
The Wonder Of Creativity
Thomas Aquinas once said, "God is an artist and the universe is Godís work of art".
Aquinas maintains that God is the source of all generative power. The PsalmistDavid sings in Psalm 19,
"The heavens are telling of God and His glory; the sky proclaims his handiwork, Day
to day ours forth speech, and night after night declares knowledge!"
David is pointing out in his song of praise, that Godís incredible creative genius is
on display for all to see and observe. All you really have to do is look at the whole
universe to see the incredible force of creativity at work. And at the root of all
created things is a spontaneity that is diverse, wild, and mysterious. And the source
of all this is the Creator God!
Robert Capon goes so far as to picture God lying in a bathtub, joyfully and playfully
blowing the bubbles of creation! We are all created out of love and joy the"Divine
artist"has for his work. All creation is rooted and grounded in love! And the Creator
has shared the wonder and joy of creativity with his creatures. Once again Aquinas
"from an abundance of Divine goodness have creatures been endowed with the
dignity of causality."
It is more than noteworthy that the Hebrew word for blessing is closely related to the
Hebrew word for create. What is being suggested here is that creation and all
creativity is wrapped up as a blessing! All creativity flows from a gracious Creator as
a blessing to us. Rabbi Heschel points out that,
"Just to be is a blessing; just to live is holy"!
Furthermore, the Bible declares that we as humans are made in the image and
likeness of God. We are to mirror and reflect Godís likeness. That is a powerful
affirmation -- at the very heart of our dignity as human beings lies our creativity and
our ability to reflect Godís image! It is an awesome fact that the very source of all
being is where we obtain our ability to create. We derive our creative DNA from
So let us consider that creativity is a wondrous gift from God! The wonder of
creativity is not to be taken for granted. Psychologist Otto Rank defined the artist as,
"one who wants to leave behind a gift".
Yes indeed, a thank you is in order for the gift of life and creativity, and the artist
naturally should want to share a "thank you" for his gift from God with others!
The great composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein once shared,
" I sit for long nights all by myself and donít have a thought in my head. Iím dry. Iímblocked, or so it seems. I sit at the piano and just improvise-strum some chord or try
a sequence of notes. And then, suddenly, I find one that hits, that suggests
something elseÖThis is the most exciting moment that can happen in an artistís life.
And every time it happens I say ĎGratias agimus tibií. I am grateful for that gift"!
Gifted Jazz great Miles Davis wrote,
"I'm always thinking about creating. My future starts when I wake up every morning.
Every day I find something creative to do with my life."
So we can see that closely related to creativity is imagination. Imagination and the
creative process transport us to a special place where there are no limits or
boundaries. It is only because of the imagination that there can be such an
incredibly diverse amount of artistic ideas!
Listen to what Mozart observed about imagination and composing music,
"When I feel well, and in a good humor, or when I am taking a drive, or walking after
a good meal, or in the night when I cannot sleep, thoughts crowd into my mind, as
easily as you could wish. Whence, and how do they come ? I do not know; and I
have nothing to do with it. Those which please me, I keep in my head, and hum (at
least others have told me that I do so). Once I have my theme, another melody
comes, linking itself to the first one, in accordance with the needs of the composition
as a whole. The counterpoint, the part of each instrument, and all these melodic
fragments, at last produce the entire work. Then my soul is on fire with inspiration.
The work grows; I keep expanding it, conceiving it more and more clearly until I
have the entire composition finished in my head, though it may be long. Then my
mind seizes it, as a glance of my eye a beautiful picture or a handsome youth. It
does not come to me successively, but in its entirety my imagination lets me hear
Rollo May asks a very important question which is particularly relevant here,
"In our day of dedication to facts and hard-headed objectivity we have disparaged
imagination...what if imagination and art are not frosting at all but the fountainhead
of human experience?
The bottom line is that imagination and creativity may be the greatest thing we have
going for us!
Back during the days of slavery, slave masters felt they could control the
imagination, ritual, and creativity of African slaves by taking away their drums. The
slave masters recognized the immense power and freedom that the drumming,
dancing, and singing represented when African slaves joined together. But while the
drums disappeared the slaves imagination did not! The rhythms re-appeared in theblack preachers phrasings and the development of the Negro spiritual songs!! And
of course later their rhythms and music developed into the birth of jazz and blues.
Today the drums are back in our music culture because you canít kill the
Keith Jarret, in an article for the New York Times shared this observation,
"Try to imagine the very first musician. He was not playing for an audience, or a
market, or working on his next recording, or touring with his show, or working on his
image. He was playing out of his need, out of his need for the music. Every year the
number of musicians who remember why they play music in the first place grows
What is the real reason behind creating, writing, and playing music? I believe it is
ecstasy (no ecstasy really isnít a naughty word!) Music produces an ecstatic
experience. Theologian Matthew Fox describes ecstatic experience as,
"forgetting oneself and of being turned on in a full and deep way."He defines
ecstatic experience as,"getting forgetting ourselves, of getting outside ourselves."
Music truly intoxicates the soul! Feelings of joy, peace, sadness, mellowness, there
are just so many emotions, some indescribable and just too many to name, that
music creates in the creator, performer, and listener! Time for the moment is
suspended as we respond to the music!
Creativity brings such joy! One loses all sense of time and gets totally caught up in
the present moment. And the sparks bring joy! I know that personally I am most
content and fulfilled when in the creative process! Bernstein continues,
" But eventuallyÖa spark will fly, and Iíll be off, sailing, my ego gone. I wonít know
my name. I wonít know what time it is. Then, Iím a composer."
What follows this line of thought is the following exhilarating fact--every time you are
involved in a creative act your are also engaged in a spiritual act. Why is this?
When an artist is in the process of creating there is a heightened intensity of
awareness. Rollo May, in his book, "The Courage To Create", puts it this way,
What the artist feels (at the moment of creation) is not anxiety or fear; it is joy!"
And the artist wants to shares this joy so that others may taste it as well!
Jazz Pianist Bill Evans expresses the connection with art and spirituality like this,
"My creed for art in general is that it should enrich the soul; it should teach
spirituality by showing a person a portion of himself that he would not discoverotherwise . . . a part of yourself you never knew existed."
I know that from my own personal experience of writing music I have observed that I
have had some of my most profound spiritual experiences while writing music.
There is an inner connectivity with the presence of God that is intensely spiritual.
There is joy in the flash of an idea and during the development of the music there is
an on going spiritual mood that can linger for days or even weeks. Of course, it
depends on the type of music you are creating as to what kind of emotional
feelings or mood will be present.
But there are things that can hinder the joy of creativity. And let me go further in
applying this to the experience of being a musician as well. As suggested by Keith
Jarrettís line of thought earlier, we can become hampered by the obsessive, "How
am I doing?", and the self-consciousness that accompanies this question. American
composer Aaron Copland once said,
"inspiration may be a form of super-consciousness, or perhaps sub-consciousness
Ė I wouldnít know. But I am sure that it is the antithesis of self consciousness."
When we start to enshrine ourselves as the source and center of our creative
abilities, and fail to appreciate and recognize that all our music, talents, and abilities
are a gift from God, the exalted ego can effectively extinguish the joy of creating
and playing music. Oneís ego can become so big that the focus is solely on how
well we are playing or how well our Cdís are selling. Many musicians need to forget
about success and failure and just get back to the joy and gift of music itself.
Bill Evans also spoke with incredible insight when he said,
"technique is the ability to translate your ideas into sound through your instrument.
This is a comprehensive technique . . . a feeling for the keyboard that will allow you
to transfer any emotional utterance into it. What has to happen is that you develop a
comprehensive technique and then say, Forget that. Iím just going to be expressive
through the piano."
Jazz music in particular provides many opportunities for responding to the music
and encouraging creativity and improvisation. Quoting Miles Davis again,
"Iíll play it first and tell you what it is afterwards."
The joy of music has been filtered out of the curriculum of most learning institutions.
Teachers dish out helping after helping of dry joyless monotony as they try to teach
the mechanics of music without giving at least equal emphasis on creativity and the
joy and wonder of creativity. No wonder so many drop out and never pursue playing
it for personal enjoyment or even a professional career! And many fine musicians
are burnt out because they have lost the connectivity between their music and thesource of all joy!
May we make every effort to regain and sustain our sense of awe and wonder as
we return to the source of all creativity! I pray that joy will be re-discovered in our
art, our music, and in all of our lives!!
Written by David Arivett
2003Songs Of David
Unique, Creative, and Innovative