The Spirit and Jazz Solos

And now for something completely different.

Once upon a time I was a saxophone player in high school. I did symphony band, pep band, and an early morning jazz band. Jazz band was by far my favorite. I had heard the local high school jazz band as a kid and had longed to be there.

If you’re going to play a sax in the jazz band you eventually need to be comfortable doing improvised solos. This can be a little bewildering at first. As a sophomore just starting out I was hesitant and a little lost. It eventually got better.

I never became a real ‘student’ of music. I didn’t memorize all the chord structures, but I know the basic parts of those structures. I would keep in my mind certain notes to play and certain ones not to play, but not a whole lot beyond that. Mostly it came down to having a feel for the music and the instrument, and playing with some confidence. Improvisational Jazz solos became one of my favorite things in life. After a concert we would often have a ‘jam session’ in the band room, often more impressive than our concert performance. A nice beat, a cool walking bass line, and guys with horns taking turns letting it all out. Not a bad way to celebrate. Many would linger for nearly an hour to listen and participate.

Is there not a type in this thing? Nephi told us he was lead by the spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which he should do. 1 Ne. 4:6

When we are following the spirit is it not in a way improvising? By learning the basics of the gospel, knowing ourselves (the instrument), and living with faith (confidence) we can become good at following the spirit.


5 Responses to “The Spirit and Jazz Solos”

  1. 1 Geoff J February 23, 2006 at 3:56 pm

    You’re right — it is the same thing. To be a good jazz improvisor one must know the chords, have a mastery of the instrument, and understand the language of jazz which comes through intimate familiarity with the work of the masters. Then when the muse hits you can “say” the things that need to be said in your solos.

    It is the same with teaching and preaching (which is best done as improv too in my opinion). To be a great preacher one must know the gospel, have a mastery of the art of communicating, and understand the language of the gospel and of the spirit which comes through intimate familiarity with the work of the masters (the prophets as well as The Master). Then when the Spirit hits you can say the things that need to be said in your preaching.

    I put up a similar post last year.

  2. 2 Naiah Earhart February 23, 2006 at 8:57 pm

    The metaphor carries even further, in that if your sound is to be pleasing, you must keep your instrument in good repair.

    I find myself being led around by the nose by the Spirit these days. I feel, at times, like things are just unfolding around me, and I’m, in a sense, surfing on a wave of inspiration & guidance. It’s something of a leap of faith to go along with it, but it’s been good so far.

  3. 3 annegb February 24, 2006 at 8:10 am

    Same what I said on your blog, Geoff. Boy, I am tired and the medicine is kicking in.

  4. 4 Eric Nielson February 24, 2006 at 8:36 am

    I think I am seeing some similarities to this and my fathers post on Creative Quietude

    Following the spirit, jazz solos, becoming who you should be, are not lazy shortcuts. They actually require a deeper commitment, but not necessarily more brute force activity.

  5. 5 Ian February 24, 2006 at 3:35 pm

    I guess Jazz is good for something. 🙂

    This is a great example of how we should try to live our lives. Like in Jazz, if we study and work hard, when the time comes we will be able to do our improvisational solo.

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