It’s so easy to get bogged down in the lure of “shoulds” and “oughts” in our lives. Even though most people consider me retired, my life is busier than ever. I just don’t have a steady day gig occupying my time. I do have, however, a more fluid lifestyle allowing me to pursue a host of worthwhile projects. After I wrote my last blog entry (two months ago!) I quickly listed 12 major goals for 2017: all important parts of my creative calling. But now it’s Lent—a “stop sign” reminding me to pause and refocus my life: spiritually, physically, vocationally and creatively.
So, I’m committing myself to six weeks of discipline and discovery. Part of my intent is to focus on one jazz composition/performance each week as a way to reaffirm the anchors in my life while exploring the improvisational freedom of the Spirit. I begin with a John Coltrane masterpiece, “Spiritual,” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkY_zTKzPCY) This version features McCoy Tyner (piano), Jimmy Garrison (bass) and Elvin Jones (drums) at a live performance in Stockholm in 1963.
During the past year I’ve been a contributing writer for the United Church of Christ Musician’s Journal. In my most recent article I wrote the following, “I belief that when we jazz musicians play, we perform a sacred rite; we are at prayer. We are never more deeply in communion with the Holy than when we’re improvising—fashioning spontaneous melodies, harmonies and rhythms as an act of giving—a holy offering to God and the listener.”
Trane’s “Spiritual” is a perfect example of improvising in this spirit. While it was never composed and performed as liturgical music, it is for me a spiritual, and I would contend, a worshipful offering that touches my soul deeply. I love the deep resonance of Trane’s tenor sax as the song begins and his switch to soprano after McCoy’s soul. I can visual the quartet on stage offering their interpretive talents to the audience. It may not have been in church but I daresay that many in the audience were lifted to new heights by their music.
I will listen to “Spiritual” this week and make a commitment to playing it in my daily practice as a spiritual discipline to help guide me through this season of Lent. May this season of Lenten meditation be a time of renewal and refocusing for you.
If you prefer to listen to the original studio recording just link to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3AeL4ED8oM.
Lenten Jazz Blessings.