Ultimately, the great jazz musicians are really master story-tellers. They listen to each other and build off the others' words, images, plots until they weave together a narrative that can't help but press against your flesh. Watching this, hearing this is enchanting and inspiring. You're literally watching creation take place -- ex nihlio -- as they birth beauty out of chaos. The harmonic foundation is laid, even if it's discovered along the way. A groove finds its way into the crevices and cracks and the melody joins the dance, sometimes boldly, sometimes hauntingly. Each musician bringing their intuitive and honest piece to the creative narrative. How appropriate to charge these souls with the task of telling the most epic story of life versus death, of beauty versus destruction!
I don't pretend to be any kind of great jazz musician; but (spoiled girl that I am) I get to collaborate and work with some heavies. Most of these collaborations have left me musing on the creative essence of GOD-in-the-moment; the GOD who seeks to co-create with us in the here and now. It leaves me laughing at my own desire to plan things out twelves steps ahead -- like life was some crazy chess game -- to the point that I miss the opportunity right it front of me. Co-creating is a gift and a practice. Sometimes it's messy. Sometimes it's beautiful. It's always raw and a little exciting.
Last week, I headed into the studio to lay down a few demo tracks with my all time favorite piano player and collaboration partner. Here's exactly how this went down moments before we started recording:
Me: We should probably do a third tune. Got a suggestion?
Justin: Nothing lame or too chick-singer.
Me: Excellent. How about some harmonically wacked-out cover of Leonard's "Hallelujah?"
Me: K...how about some Bill?
Me: Awesome. How you wanna do it?
Justin: No idea.
Me: Sooooo...how about you start playing and I'll start singing and we'll see where this baby lands.
Two takes. Boom. I listened to him. He listened to me. No final destination marked out. No road map to force our direction. Just shooting for what was the most beautiful and true in this piece of music and then leaning into each others' next step. Ex nihlio. Beauty out of chaos. I really like how the song turned out. It's raw. Conversational. Fluid story. But the process was, to me, the most divine aspect of this final product.
[wanna hear it? Justin Adams is a monster. Damn.]
I'm still learning how to listen and lean into the next step, the next note, the next harmonic exchange when I play with other musicians. Now, if only I knew how to bring that co-creative essence of the Divine into all that I do... but maybe that's one of the great Easter lessons, eh?