Sunday, November 06, 2005

Improvisation (part 1)

Kirk Byron Jones in his book, The Jazz of Preaching, tells this story about Mr. marsalis "Wynton Marsalis was playing, "I Don't Stand a Ghost of a Chance With You," unaccompanied. At the most dramatic point of his conclusion, someone's cell phone went off." David Hajdu was present and tells what happened next... " "Marsalis paused for a beat, motionless, and his eybrows arched. I scrawled on a sheet of notepaper, MAGIC, RUINED. The cell-phone offender scooted into the hall as the chatter in the room grew louder. Still frozen at the microphone, Marsalis replayed the silly cell-phone melody note for note. Then he repeated it, and began improvising variations on the tune. The audience slowly came back to him. In a few minutes he resolved the improvisation--which had changed keys once or twice and throttled down to a ballad tempo--and ended up exactly where he had left off: "with...you..." The ovation was tremendous." Improvisation--an essential skill for any jazz theologian.

4 Comments:

Blogger Sherman Cox said...

This was an amazing story from a very good book. I began thinking about the idea of improvisation in jazz and its comparison to improvisation in preaching.

Sherman Cox
http://www.homileticsportal.com
http://www.shermancox.com

12:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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9:20 AM  
Blogger Pete Gall said...

What is the role of the personal in improvisation? I've been thinking about the difference between "communicating" and "expressing" lately (a discussion with an expressionist painter who simply numbers his paintings because he doesn't want to tell the audience anything about what to think of his work... though of course EVERYTHING communicates, the very act of un-communicating is communication, and the Dadaists who choose a name at random from the dictionary still communicate, even if they mislead or mean nothing).

When I think of the story of Marsalis improvising to the cell phone tone, I don't know what to think about communication vs. expression, or about personal versus the utilization of an objective musical skill set. How much of Marsalis was at work as he wound he way back to the tune?

How much of the preacher is at work, and how much is just the utilization of an objective skill set or bundle of learned facts?

When a Christian embraces a life of jazz - of working from standards of faith and doctrine, but wandering with them as he listens to the world - he's obviously improvising because the world happens beyond his control. But is he expressing or communicating? And what is the role of the personal in the art and song of his life?

(this is not too many questions for you, JT - and they all point to the same larger question, you left-brain cop-out guy)

9:31 AM  
Blogger jazztheo said...

Hello Pete,

You are using significantly fewer questions...thank you.

All your questions do point to a larger question...would you please state what that question is.

10:34 AM  

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