My understanding of religion is similarly capacious....

Never before have I had the privilege, time or encouragement to spend practicing music for two hours at a pop. Ok, I take that back a bit: when I was in high school we would take 3-4 hours at a time and practice songs. But since 1970 that hasn't been a possibility - and now it is! A time to listen carefully to my intonation, a time to correct some bad habits picked up on the fly, a time to write out scales - and learn some basic piano in the process - so that I can see and feel the intervals. And the bigger blessing is that we've set aside three whole months for just this type of intense work.

In a scholarly work entitled, Spirits Rejoice, Jason Bivens writes that his understanding of religion is just as broad and eclectic as a musical genre that includes Esperanza Spaulding, Thelonious Monk, Frank Sinatra and Sun Ra. I knew I was going to like this cat. "My understanding of "religion" is similarly capacious, one that musicians themselves often embrace, where the aesthetic experience of the Kantian sublime is understood to be as really religious as any confession or rite."  Is that a GREAT sentence or what? (I think Brother Hancock helps us HEAR all of that in the clip above, too!) 

Bivens, you see, is exploring what Ralph Ellison meant when he wrote that "much of American life is 'jazz-shaped.'" His hunch - and mine - is that it has to do with responsibility and freedom in pursuit of inner and outward ecstasy and meaning. Stanley Crouch writes that jazz is "perfect for America because... it's about democratic means being used to arrive at utopian ends." (We shall see as I make my way through his text.) All I know is that the privilege of practicing and thinking about this music is a joy that helps me make the kind of music I feel deep within. As Ansel Adams said, "Chance favors the prepared mind." Or improvisation only happens after a TON of practice and exploration.

Just for kicks I closed out today's rehearsal playing along with Herbie Hancock's "Cantelope Island." Just listen to these wildmen blow and know that it is the beautiful consequence of prepared minds, mouths, hands and muscles.  Too kewel for school...


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