hear and play

Today I had the strange urge to visit a couple of facebook profiles of people who have passed away. They were my age for the most part. I was touched by the loving posts on their page. Family members and friends post periodically: those who still long to converse with them about the holidays, or occasionally reach for their phone to share a funny story. By posting they keep the soft echo of these quieted voices bouncing off the walls of cyberspace. While sobering, I also found it incredibly and wonderfully humanizing.We are each a soloist and an audience member. As soloists, we have our audiences who listen to our songs and find beauty in the notes that we play. As audience members we cheer and sometimes jeer many other soloists. The facebook profiles I visited today were of soloists who have put down their instruments and left the stage. The loving posts were from audience members that yet strain their ears to hear the overtones of favorite melodies.I mentioned sometimes jeering at a soloist. Today I saw a bit of news where Rick Santorum, who is running for the Republican Presidential nomination, was telling of an experience where his wife delivered a still-born son many years ago. In his recounting of the story he and his wife were obviously moved and emotional. As someone who disagrees with many, if not most, of his political ideas I saw, as an audience member, that his approach to politics is not the only song that he plays. From his stage flows also a sweeping lullaby of fatherhood that has ebb and flow of joy and sorrow.

I suppose the point to this post is that I was reminded today that to be an audience member is to know that it is better to do more cheering than jeering and that those exclamations are also the notes that our audience members are hearing and will continue to hear long after we put down our own instruments. May the echoes of our songs be something that will help others be in peace when it is our day to rest.

the song

Have you ever been able to pick up the rhythm of a place where no music is being played? A busy street might have a tight groove where the whole band works perfectly together, and then perhaps an empty park might be an oboe solo with long happy lines and plenty of breath marks. I would even say that what we call music is an organized expression of the songs that we’re sensing. But along with that, I would also contend that underneath all of those songs, persists a subtle dissonance; a pitting of multiple tones against each other that create earth-wide and life-long tension. Have you sensed that? Some would paint it into the strokes of ying and yang. Others would claim it’s the battle between God and Satan. Still others would simply point to the human propensity to let our good intentions run wild and somehow end up plundering the very village we are trying to maintain. A clumsy breed we are. 
 
So when did it all get so messy? The book I read, says near the beginning. Either way, it’s been our practice to have a paradoxical existence; to have one foot in the pure and one in the puddle. Have you noticed that hate speech is always interrupted by the calm, kind voice of reason? An act of terror seems to uncover unwavering and inspiring courage. Self-hate in the middle of addiction can melt away when met with an embrace of compassionate, honest arms. 
 
The inconsistencies of our software and hardware indicates to me that we humans are most likely sitting uncomfortably on the plane where heaven and earth meet. Water and dust turned to bone and electricity and then- back to the ground- and we fight the transitions every breath of the way. Why? Perhaps it’s that we gulp for the sweet air of the holy breath that sustains us, meanwhile growing gills in our small, green and blue pond.   
 

The world seems to be waiting, with drumming fingers, for those moments when the predictable algorithm of our programming is interrupted by mystically motivated moves of compassion. We cannot stop listening when that familiar dissonance is broken by love that lacks logic. 

Be it a moment shared with a loved one or a YouTube video of a child running to his soldier father, we watch, many times with tears streaming, as though this love being shown before us, is both an eternal gift and a missed destination. Could it be that the whole earth is groaning for a day when outrageous love is the norm and our eyes no longer feel the need to leak a reminder of that moment down our cheeks? 
 
So, shall we play? The meticulous songwriter keeps writing and the passionate conductor beckons. Play well the notes that you’ve been given and be thankful that you get a chair in the orchestra. You’ll miss your cue from time to time, and so will I. Will you play louder when I do? The conductor has been in our chairs before. He smiles at our bumbling, but the baton waves with precision. Follow it, my friend, and play the song.

To Draw and to be Drawn In.

Gravity is an incredible force. To think how massive the earth is and that because of the sun’s gravity it doesn’t just fly off into space. Because of gravity (among some other variables) most of us can’t jump high enough to touch a ten foot basketball rim. Ten feet? Really? We’re being drawn in by a giant planet.

I would argue that an even greater force draws or almost pushes us toward one another. I watched a video today of little kids who were surprised by their soldier dads who came to visit them. The kids had almost no control of their joyful legs as they ran toward their dad, propelled by the force of a love that draws them in. They thought not of where to place their little arms, or how best to hug their dad. They bounded into their dad’s embrace. It was as if that’s where they were meant to be the whole time. I feel it with my own boys. I won’t lie, not every minute in my house is a tear-jerking, you-tube moment, but they count on me, they need me, they’re drawn to me; and by nothing that I’ve done, but merely by who I am. Our DNA, our blood, transcends space and science, grabs and pushes them and Alissa and I together.

Jeff%20Buckley

Yesterday I stumbled upon an artist named Jeff Buckley. Jeff was born in 1966. His dad, Tim, was just about to hit the music scene in a major way. Tim was overwhelmed by the notion of being a dad and split. He rocketed to the top of Folk/Rock music and instantly rejected the success by spewing out music that missed the mainstream, all the while leaving Jeff to his mom and her new husband. When Jeff was 8, he got to meet his dad after watching his show from his mom’s lap. Jeff ran backstage and sat on the knee of this 28 yr old man that he’d never met and talked his ear off for 15 minutes. Jeff never saw his dad again, as Tim Buckley died a few months later from a heroine/alcohol overdose.

Jeff grew up in California where he, too, chased the dream of becoming a musician. After some disappointing efforts, Jeff got asked to sing one of his dad’s songs at a tribute held in New York, FOR his dad. Strangely enough, Jeff sang the song that Tim wrote about how he wasn’t prepared to be the mountain he needed to be for Jeff. That performance gained Jeff some attention and in the next few years, Jeff officially debuted with a stunning album he called “Grace”. He, like his dad, wasn’t quite sure what to do with his success once he acquired it. Shy yet passionate, he wasn’t one to bask in the limelight, as his shimmering voice threw one’s ears back to Nina Simone and, of course, to his dad, Tim.
In 1997, he was working on his second major album and the 30 year old went swimming one night in the Wolf River next to Memphis, TN and drowned.
Even though it’s old news, this story is obviously tragic on many levels. Why am I drawn to it? I think because it speaks to the fact that we are designed to exist in connection with one another, that sometimes, we don’t have a choice in the matter, and that our souls just might tell us the story before it even happens.
There is a gravitational pull that bring many of us together. For some, it’s the art of another that transports our souls to a place we would’ve never been able to go otherwise. These two forces; community and creativity, feed into each other, feed our souls, and grow in us so that others may taste the “good” that the Bible says God saw in that very first chapter.
The tragedy is that we’ve built walls up between each other, with social status, skin color, religion and politics. We all know I’m not the first to name these walls, but how long will I live within their confines? How long will you?

One of the songs off of Jeff Buckley’s “Grace” album is called “Hallelujah”. Here’s a video of Jeff singing it and playing his guitar. It’s hauntingly beautiful, in my opinion. If you get nothing else from this post, at least hear the soul-cry from this young man. The song brings the message that often the songs from the very Spirit of God can be tainted by us and our feeble and sometimes failed attempts to sing that love back to one another.

Ricardo Concert


Last night I had the distinct pleasure of opening up for Ricardo Sanchez. Alissa had to get River home so she left with the camera before I had the photo op with him OR my band so that was a bummer so I’ll just use the poster that circulated a few venues. My “boy” Shon Bradford set this whole concert up so I just want to give him much love on here right now!
I had David McVicker on Sax, Elliot Diggs on bass and O’Shea on drums. We had a great time doing what we do. I did about 6 songs all of which were originals with the exception of a Fred Hammond tune Glory to Glory to Glory.

There were a little over a hundred folks there. Not bad for such a small venue, but it was intimate and cool that way.
Ricardo’s band was simply amazing and it was awesome to see what he’s been doing since he lived here in AZ. He’s in Atlanta now signed with a major label and just makin’ it happen. It was great to sit across the table from, have some good food and just talk a bit with a guy that gives all the credit to God for all his success. He’s inspiring that way and it comes out in his stage presence because he shares his heart and no just his musical ability. He’s a worship leader through and through and that is way more fun to be a part of than just some one up there just trying to be awesome.

It was a good night and I’ll carry the events and conversations from it for good long while.

Roots

There are many days when, as a musician, I don’t act like it. I listen to sports talk radio, or political commentary. The music on the radio is more for nostalgia than anything else. I’m 32, I’m not listening to the “new stuff” anymore. Some might say, “Well as someone who writes music, don’t you want to know what’s going on out there?” First of all, if it’s popular AND true quality, it’ll most likely make it to my ears somehow, and second, most of the great stuff is NOT played on the radio so I’m not missing anything.

So that brings me to a place where as a guy without a whole lot of time to go searching for new and amazing music, I sometimes wonder if I’m just one foot in the door as a musician, THEN I’ll stumble upon some stuff on my iPod that I haven’t listened to in months.

It’s that album where every note on nearly every song moves you. Suddenly you’re soaked in the moment of the music. It’s not about a memory that it sparks, but it’s about the masterful ebb and flow of the music itself. It’s the organic nature of the bass line as it sweeps through, gently bending and twisting to bring each note out into it’s own individual color, while at the same time unifying the instruments…it’s like a breeze on a field of flowers, each petal is touched but as you look at it, it’s all so connected, you can’t decide which part to run through first.

Then there’s the strings as they powerfully swirl and soar. Always dipping, reaching, switching between the rhythmic pant of a sprinting horse, to the delicate, careless, descent of a discarded feather.
Of course, there’s the piano line. An expert ear hears the exact execution in the line, but the soul of the listening participant is seduced into the hauntingly simplistic rhythm just before being whisked away into a dimension that precariously exists between written genius and improvisational magic.

These moments remind me that I don’t have just one foot in the door of being a musician. Music is the root of how I have perceived everything I’ve ever experienced. Life is a series of dissonant chords with the resolve soon to come. I’ve always had pitch retention, that means I can keep a certain key going in my head for a long time after the music has stopped. Perhaps that’s why I am so optimistic about life; even in the dissonance I hear the original key, and am confident that the resolve chord is just around the corner. What are your roots? What keeps you grounded?