No where is this trust, skill, and creative vulnerability more evident than when we take an old favorite, deconstruct it in various ways, and then slowly reconstruct it to fit this moment in time so that our collective heart's commitment takes on shape, form, sound, and soul. Playing serious and spontaneous jazz with one another over the years has helped us let go of form so that we might playfully experiment with improvisation. Winton Marsalis wrote that playing live demands vigorous listening as well as a deep willingness to help one another out of the pit should a song start to go south. These three musical practices are a form of embodied spirituality and are grounded in faith: we believe that the sacred is every bit a member of the band as the rest of us. And the more we strive to honor this holy presence the more risks we're willing to take in pursuit of the pay-off.
Consequently, we're now playing with a few others: by applying the same insights to the Foo Fighters, "Times Like These," we've come up with almost a Latin driven call to compassion that's world's apart from the kickass rock'n'roll of the original. On a fluke, we discovered that "Groovin'" by the Rascals worked as an ultra-laid back invitation to sensual mindfulness. And that "Gimme Shelter" by the Stones can be an agonizing call to solidarity. We start off acoustically with women's voices ascending and descending in spontaneous chant; the first verse is offered in a hushed tone; adding drums and percussion builds the intensity so that the extended instrumental break into the middle with a searing electric guitar that kicks things into high rock'n'roll gear. We tried it that way last night after discussing these possibilities. Without having played it this way, we could've had a train wreck. But when trust, skill, and creative vulnerability are embraced by the Holy Spirit: it was a bit like Pentecost when that presence greater than ourselves lifted both the band and our gathered friends into another zone state of consciousness, Debriefing afterwards, confirmed that we all felt the buzz of being lifted beyond ourselves for about 8 sacred minutes.Two other factors are worth noting, too. First, our lead guitarist, Dave McDermott, follows the flow of the Spirit in all his playing. If it doesn't FEEL real, he lays out, preferring silence to noise. Often he's said to me something like: when our music taps into the vibrations of life that are eternal but not often acknowledged, we are guided by a love greater than consciousness. David doesn't waste time playing random notes. Rather, he shares flourishes and fills as a song ripens and the offers up solos that come from some deep place within and beyond. When this happens, our songs become soul food. Second, each member of this ensemble carries with them a musical legacy that honors rock, soul, gospel, jazz, folk, and chant. I've rarely experienced such an eclectic mix before where we're just as much at home with Nora Jones, the Grateful Dead, and the Beatles as with Miles, Joni Mitchell, Hendrix or traditional country. Jazz poet, Jayne Cortez, put it perfectly when she crafted this:
Wailed with Bud
Counted every star with Stitt
Sang "Don’t Blame Me" with Sarah
Wore a flower like Billie
Screamed in the range of Dinah
& scatted "How High the Moon" with Ella Fitzgerald as she blew roof off the Shrine AuditoriumJazz at the Philharmonic
Add in the stunning natural beauty of taking in the music while contemplating the wetlands... and you get something that feels salvific. Jimi Hendrix once said: I used to live in a room full of mirrors; all I could see was me. I take my spirit and I crash my mirrors, now the whole world is here for me to see. Ain't THAT the truth? Dave and I will join the soiree as "Two of Us" tomorrow at the Sideline Saloon under the able guidance of host Elaine Morel @ 7 pm. Be there or be square!