Sunday, September 9, 2012

What would a REAL jazz liturgy look like...?

Well, knowing my scales and forms ~ and practicing with prayer, Bible study and broad reading ~ paid off on today's improvisational sermon riff on the blues: it was intimate, vulnerable and creative.  We worked up a very bluesy version of "Motherless Child" to start the message ~ some sweet and open piano phrasing followed by my guitar and vocals; an aching electric guitar break filled the middle and was followed by two wailing female voices joining me in harmony ~ to give the song shape and depth.
"Ever feel like this...?" I asked at the outset - then went into the song - followed by my reflection on paying attention to the blues and your tears when they come knockin' on your door. Two quotes from St. Buechner added punch as well as my story about visiting with our local hip hopsters. I can't tell you how many people said to me afterwards, "You been reading my mail, man?  I've felt like that for the past year... let's talk some more."  And we will.

Which set my musical maestro to thinking:  we do SO well without any practice, what would happen if we approached the whole liturgy that way some Sunday?  Hmmmm... I'm up for finding out.  Good improvisation, however, is NOT what Ginsberg once thought - or those knuckleheads who cut up written texts, threw them into the air and glued them together however they landed on the ground and called it poetry - that is chaos (and arogant bull shit.)

No, good improvisation includes knowing the form (structure), practice (so you know your chops), trust and intimate connection with your band mates and a willingness to "compose on the spot" as Sir Duke once put it.  Now I could be wrong but a totally improvised liturgy might include:  picking the hymns/songs on the spot, adding tunes or prayers as the Spirit moved us, seeing who is available to create music before and after worship, following a clear form in the liturgy with lots of room for expansion and... what else? 

I think we're going to give it a go this week - or at least soon - and see what it feels like to be totally in the jazz groove.

I'll keep you posted...


deanna witkowski said...

Greetings from India (I'm teaching music here for seven weeks!).

Please let us know what happens with your jazz liturgy!
You're right that everyone needs to know the form-- in musical cases, sometimes that means that there is no form-- but that is something that is known up front.

I still want to come and play at your church!

RJ said...

Blessings to you in India! I will talk with Carlton and we'll find a way and time to bring you here. That would be such a blessing. Thanks for your note.

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