Monday, May 2, 2011

The Jesus in Jazz

Sunday was a great opportunity to rejoice in the Divine Mercy and John Paul the Great's beatification.   My small celebration consisted of finding a coffee shop to crack open a book or two for enjoyment.  I brought with me Tanqueray's Spiritual Life and Who's Who in Jazz by Chilton.

I covered a little of both and the awesomeness of the musician always amazes me and shows me the glory of God.  Just like Tanqueray's Spiritual Life reads as a guide to follow the righteous path, the Who's Who reads like an encyclopedia of persons of Jazz desiring to attain in their lifetime a type of peace and righteousness with the desire to create beautiful jazz.  The musician is an isolated figure struggling to make his music, but always sees the fruition of playing with other musicians, each one adding in his own specialty for the glory of it all.

After studying the names and paths of individuals and understanding the importance of the band leader calling everyone together to New York or Chicago, I switched over to Tanqueray's opinion of it all.  Here is where my comparison lies in the path we take and the limitations that this human method has.
In the chapter on perfection in the Christian life, Tanqueray states "we cannot on Earth love God with a constant, nor yet habitual love which is at the same time perfectly pure and disinterested."348  This habitual love is also unperfect like the improvisation of the jazz musician's weaving across the country to play for food, work and soul. 

I like these type of random comparisons because I see God in the talents he has given these musicians that strove to survive in the early 1900s.  There is such a joy in music and the style of jazz is also a creation of God the Father.  The Creator weaved a world that we could find joy in.  The jazz musician developed as a response to a cry in the wind from the beats and rhythms of Africa, the Caribbean and the sounds of Europe.  The growth of the medium is still in development as the hearts of men still turn one by one and all in unison to the Great Band Leader of this universe.

It was all a matter of getting the music out there for these guys, and playing, playing, playing until it killed you.  Which is the case of many of the small autobiographical references in Chilton's encyclopedia.The Sugar Cane Orchestra and the Young Olympia Band developed in a time of hardship.  Experimentation of a different kind took place in the sound laboratory of Fred Van Epps. From the 1900s to the 1960s, these mostly self-taught artists played for the heart of it and left a legacy of beautiful music.

Can we say that we try to play the way God has intended for us?  Or are we creatures of poor habit that will never try to create music of the soul in striving for  good habits? 

I think we are only improvisors on this path that God leads us on and he is the great conductor that brings us all together from different places, calling out of the blue one summer to come and add your piece to the music of life.