The Jazz Theologian

Grammy award winner, Wynton Marsalis tells the following story about discovering IT.

Now, my younger brother Ellis couldn’t understand all this fuss about jazz.  He wasn’t a musician, and jazz just didn’t speak to him.  But he figured it might be worth it to learn to hear jazz.  Some years later he called…“Man, I think I hear it.  I can hear what y’all are playing.”

I knew exactly what it was he was talking about.  This hearing of it is the moment of revelation that leads you deeper into a love of jazz.  All at once, the potential glories of interacting with this limitless music become evident and present, pressing.  All the head-scratching and confusion are replaced with excitement and expectations.  You are welcomed into a club that never dwindles—the It club.

After all, hearing jazz is not that difficult.  Following jazz is where all the trouble begins.  But when you begin to think of jazz in terms of language, you’ll see how much you already know.  We’re all improvisers when we speak, making things up as we go along, using the base of our experience, education, and knowledge to communicate effectively.  Jazz musicians improvise the same way.  We try to express ourselves clearly, drawing on a mental database of melodies, rhythms, and textures.

…jazz is a language—a language of words, beyond words.

So what is IT?

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