i will learn my song well before....

For the past year I haven't listened to any "new" music. That startling conclusion started to dawn on me during the closing rehearsals of our Good Friday liturgy saturated with John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme." 

NOTE: for the truly curious, this is streaming on PCTV; go to: http://www.pittsfieldtv. org/access-pittsfield-show-search/ and search for a love supreme.) 

This is not to say that I haven't listened to any music in a year, nor is it true that all the "old" songs I took in weren't"new" to me - for they were. The majesty of Ray Brown's bass playing with Oscar Peterson, the nuances of pianist Herbie Hancock's journey from Miles Davis protege to grand master jazz/funk/fusion guru in his own right, the later recordings of Joni Mitchell, the collaboration between upright bass man Ron Carter and guitar playing Bill Frisell, and Ahmad Jamal's "Saturday Morning" have regularly filled this past year with sounds of grandeur. But, while most of this music was new to me, it has not been cutting edge.

Oddly, when I started to search for some of the best new jazz recordings of 2016, many of them involved old artists:  Greg Abate and Phil Woods, Bucky Pizzarelli, Larry Young and Stan Getz. Last summer I heard Bad Plus Joshua Redman play some wildly inventive new jazz - and I was turned on to Quebecois pianist/composer Maryanne Trudell, too (whom we'll make a point to see in late June at the Ottawa Jazz Festival.) So like Joni once sang, "...maybe it's the time of year, or maybe it's the time of man but I don't know who I am but life's for learning." I can't speak for the culture's obsession with nostalgia. I just know that I needed to saturate myself in the tradition both to feel its depth as well as learn its grooves. Now, I am sensing an interest in not only listening to new creations but also creating something new, too. Dylan was right: I must learn my song well before I start singing... .

Yesterday, for the first time in more than a year, I spent the whole day in study, prayer and writing - and it felt like I was finally sleeping in my own bed again. For more than 33 years I have set aside one full day for Bible study, prayer, quiet reflection and writing for Sunday worship. But since returning from Montreal it hasn't worked out that way. I suspect that there are a variety of reasons for the gap, but after yesterday's focus I've quit trying to make this past year's scattered style suffice. In a mixed metaphor way, yesterday's saturation in Scripture and silence brought this version of "Summertime" to mind by many of my favorite masters.


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