The most unique aspect of jazz can be summed up in one word—improvisation. All jazz musicians, whether conservatory trained or self-taught, engage in this interpretive art—melodically, harmonically and rhythmically. Using chordal and modal frameworks, jazz musicians take a melody and, through the depth of their own musical experience and creative inspiration, explore the infinite possibilities of creating their own musical interpretation. “Musical experience” is gained through study and wood-shedding: purposeful and persistent practicing. “Creative inspiration” is the intangible and intuitive opening of the self to the inspiration of the Muse or, in religious terminology, the call of the Spirit. Jazz improvisation is more than just art. It is the opening of oneself to the inspirational call of an inner voice, whether you name it Muse or Spirit.
This same inspirational call is heard by all artists in their interpretive response to the essence of their art. Classically trained church musicians also experience this inspiring call but generally stay within the pre-arranged structure of the musical composition. All one has to do is watch an organist, flutist, cellist or vocalist as they perform and the musician’s intensity and interpretive skills shine through. Jazz musicians also shine, going beyond musical boundaries to express their connection to the inner Source of the music. When performing in the church, jazz musicians align themselves with the Source—an intimate connection between the musical creator and his/her Creator God.
So, a jazz hymnal makes perfect sense. Taking standard hymns and breathing new life into them by creatively rearranging melodies, harmonies and rhythms that allow worshippers (and musicians) to explore the deepest depths of the soul.