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Evolution of Jazz into Spiritual Expressive Music
call of the spirit
•Jazz provides the right set of possibilities
•Attributes of free-jazz improv as spiritual practice
•Quotes on music, jazz and spirit
Since humans first discovered music it has been a source
of mystery, joy and magic. The earliest music was ALL
for spiritual and magical purposes because it directly
affected the nervous system of the listener. With no language
or special skills necessary the shaman/trance-musician
could invoke experiences of joy, sentimentality, passion,
war, sadness or transcendence.
As humans progressed music became more ritualized and
increasingly stripped of its function of moving the soul
and opening the heart. Music was discovered to be a means
of anchoring memories to certain experiences, and propelling
various physical activities, aka church music, work music,
music for dancing and social gatherings, advertisement
jingles, etc. Still very good music for what it is designed
for, but stripped of most of the psychic and spiritual
Call of the Spirit
when we hear a particular musician who we spontaneously
say "has a lot of soul", it is the yearning
of the spirit to move toward a state of freedom, and
our sympathy with that which we feel as "soul".
Certain music has soul because it catches our ear,
it sounds different .... less asleep, less constricted,
less caught in struggle and more in the flow of nature.
Jimi hendrix for example is considered to be one of
the most soulful guitarists ever - but examining the
music it's his inner passion and freedom from
technique that we are responding to. We hear
in 'soulful' music an ecstatic free state of consciousness,
and within us a desire is created for union with this
Provides the Right Set of Possibilities
the advent of jazz, arguably the most culturally integrated
of world music's, a seed was planted that grew into a
'new' form of spiritual practice. (Actually an ancient
way of realizing ones path to God or universal realization
thru the use of sound, a theme appearing in many cultures
back thru time.)
This new expression of ancient sound-enlightenment has
roots extending back thru the 1940's ....
possibly starting with Charlie Parker,
who was not exactly a mystic as such - but his music was
of such sublime effortless beauty that he was considered
an oracle by many musicians.
He was a prophet of things to come. he was also inspired
by avant-garde and modern classical composers such as
Edgar Varèse and Igor Stravinsky.
Also of note was Louis Armstrong "pops"
who donated some beautiful karma to this stream, the great
Duke Elligton for his majestic &
visionary compositional skills and King Pleasure
- an eccentric singer, philosopher and savior.
In development at this time were two souls who seem to
be the primary early free-jazz mystics - Sun-Ra
and Albert Ayler.
From there it branches off to the powerful influence of
John Coltrane and his lineage, Pharoah
Sanders, Donald Rafael Garret, Rev. Frank
Wright, Yuseef Lateef, WIlliam
Parker, Dave Liebman, David S. Ware,
Kali Z Fasteau, Arthur Rhames and now
of Free Jazz improvisation as Spiritual / Yogic Practice
I remember the
first time I experienced that floating, out-of-the-body
feeling. It was a number of years ago, when I was playing
in Chicago. At the time, I didn't know what it was. I said,
"What is this?" and I backed off it for a minute.
"With certain groups, like Albert Ayler, Cecil Taylor,
Ornette Coleman, and now my own group, there is a level
of playing which we try to reach which is the same thing
that people do when they do transcendental meditation and
They talk about "out of the body" experiences.
That's what this music is. It's chanting; it's meditation;
It's all these things. In order to play, something transcends.
Something happens with the physical, the spiritual and the
mental state in which they combine, and their energy is
a cleansing experience which in a religion they would say,
"It's of another world." The state I'm talking
about even transcends emotions. It's a feeling of being
able to communicate with all living things."
~Ronald Shannon Jackson
This form of spiritual practice through jazz is
a mixture of
mental/physical discipline, zen, pranayama,
psychic purification, kundalini yoga, in-the-Now-ness, spontaneous
harmonious psychic co-operation, cosmic discernment and
selflessness / transpersonal awareness.
discipline - peak awareness, clarity of focus
and fluent control of one's instrument and physical organic
zen - a judgementless state of acceptance
of experience and graceful flow-state
- rhythmic control of breathing to alter or focus
consciousness during meditation, yoga or improvisation.
- happens naturally for many wind players
psychic purification - at a certain point
in developing ones improvisatory technique, after conquering
physical technique and developing a flow-state, the limiting
factor becomes ones physio-psychic ability to maintain
the highest groove, or aka - channel divine light. the
ultra-subtle psychic knots and energy blocks seem more
apparent as they are revealed to be the limiting factors
in what energy levels of vibration are able to come through
you, as you.
the purging of unattended fears, self-acknowledgement
of all inner and outer truths, untangling of neuro-physical
blockages stored from painful or shocking experiences
and the settling of all current affairs is necessary to
remove any barriers between you and total universal communication.
kundalini yoga - spirit-jazz seems to
be fueled by a force variously known as kundalini, glossolalia,
the holy spirit, the logos or spirit-fire. This force
drives the player to unparalleled levels of sustained
creativity, energy, focus, depth and eloquence.
in-the-Now-ness - free improvisation
in a group setting requires a complete surrender to the
group sound current as embodied in the unique synergistic
possibilities of the set of players. Any attempt at planning,
thought, habit-based playing or any self-based activity
is not NOW-ness and is a step backward into time/self
based limitations instead of outward, unrestricted group
becoming. Any stray thought, memeory, or distraction from
the happenings at that exact second is a break in the
collective state of wordless abstract vibrational co-operation.
Not simply the practice of Now-ness but the higher challenge
of active creative group now-ness.
spontaneous harmonious psychic co-operation -
at this level of freedom and group creation, the purity
of empathy between the musicians, the unspoken psychic/spiritual
understanding must be immaculate. The group soars off
into the vibra-verse in divine unison through the miracle
of all players feeling the same 'cosmic groove' and co-navigating
like a flock of birds. This level of instant communication
is impossible through words.
cosmic discernment - navigating the cosmic
vibrations as group psychic travelers, propelled by inner
heart-fire, as a process of group spirit travel requires
great sensitivity to all frequencies of vibration. emotional,
mental, social, harmonic, karmic and cosmic ebbs and flows
of energy must be opened to as much as possible. This
goes back to purification as many of these vibrations
may be intolerable (causing heartbreak and mania) unless
corresponding inner blockages are addressed.
transpersonal awareness - awareness during
a high musical event may take on transpersonal aspects,
including seeing the self as a player being played by
an energetic force, feeling that the entire band has merged
into a single organism or group mind, dilation of time
and expansion of tiny nuances in the music, and / or loss
of all physical awareness except for the music.
factors are what make ecstatic spirit-jazz unique in spiritual
It is simultaneously a form of spiritual healing &
energy distribution, group psychic communication, mental/physical/emotional/spiritual
development, prayer to God, musical performance, cosmic/astral
exploration & fine-art.
To play music
on the Divine level of Coltrane's late works or Tisziji's
"Divine radiance" requires a totally uninhibited
consciousness with an endlessly open heart to allow for
unobstructed energy flow from spirit to mind to body to
instrument to listener and back to universe.
When sound vibrates at a certain level we can see a corridor.
At the end of this corridor is a room where all the secrets
are kept. This room is locked and can only be opened through
sound. If we play the right combination of tones the door
opens and we are allowed to enter the room. Once inside
a secret of life is revealed to us. Every time we play music
we can enter this room.
Music is your own experience, your thoughts, your wisdom.
If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn.
The music is what sustains the player
from beginning to end. That's where you get your life
from. That's why you play jazz.
Music is a special gift from God to those who have it
and it's necessary for us to follow it through to the
extent of our abilities, whatever they may be. That's
what I life for. A friend of mine saw Kenny Dorham playing
somewhere the night before he died. Kenny was playing
on crutches, but he was playing right to the end. God
willing, that's the way it will also be with me.
“Making money ain’t nothing exciting to me.
You might be able to buy a little better booze than the
wino on the corner. But you get sick just like the next
cat and when you die you’re just as graveyard dead
as he is.”
(what is jazz?) “Man, if you have to ask what it
is, you’ll never know.”
“What we play is life.”
“Jazz is played from the heart. You can even live
by it. Always love it.”
"My hope is that we will use this
time space to renew our relationship with cultural dynamics
and begin again the fight for the challenge of composite
existence and positive experience. We must rededicate
ourselves to the hope of world peace, human rights, and
cosmic destiny. Creativity is the engine of evolution
and healing. We are now in a new era and there is everything
~Anthony Braxton responding to the events
" Something happens with the
physical, the spiritual and the mental state in which
they combine, and their energy is turned free.
a cleansing experience which in a religion they would
say, "It's of another world." The state I'm
talking about even transcends emotions. It's a feeling
of being able to communicate with all living things."
~Ronald Shannon Jackson
© 2006-2007 Miqel
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