Saturday, June 6, 2009

The "J" Word

click & hear The Jazz in Me
You know, people just get plain scared of the "J" word.

They see it and automatically form an opinion. It's usually either "I Love it!", or "I don't really like that!"

Yes, the term "Jazz" can scare the beans out of people.

If they hear a song that is described as jazz, they instantly react, mostly saying "this isn't the kind of thing I'm used to", or hear the word jazz and say "oh, I don't like that".

But I see Jazz as less of a music "style" and more of a description of my creative self.

The song "The Jazz in Me", which is also the title of an album of mine, does talk about how I'm more like Miles (Davis) than (John) Coltrane. But the comparisons aren't really about music.

Miles Davis is very well known as a Jazz icon. But if you study his life (or just take a listen to him playing), it wasn't his stellar playing that made him stand out and be revered as a giant of Jazz. It was his ability to put together the right people for the right job. It was unique style that didn't always require the killer, fast riffs (like Coltrane) to impress. It was his ability to be in the right place at the right time, and his staying power, even among players who were really better than he was.

I feel that's much more my strength: to put together great talent, find (or write) great songs, and then share that with the world. And it's what I plan to do pretty much the rest of my days.

In the second verse, I relate more to Thelonius Monk than Dizzy Gillespie. Certainly not because I'm able to play like Monk (dude was a freak), but I am much more messy and like him, more about the feel than the notes. The groove, passion, and attitude probably hit me more than being able to play cleanly and clearly. I loved Monk's laid back attitude.

In an earlier version of the song, I used basketball references for the second verse, saying I was more "Bird" than "Jordan". Now, anyone who knows me knows I am a gigantic Jordan and Bulls fan having lived in Chicago for a few years. But I'm certainly more of a Bird on the court than MJ, mainly because I'm just a big goofy white guy. But also because I rely more on smart shots, passing, and rebounds/defense (not that MJ wasn't good at all that..) I certainly use "the jazz in me" on the court though. I NEVER do the same move twice (probably because I don't really have any moves).

But when I think of the "J" word, another word comes to mind: Jesus. Not to get over-religious, because that's definitely not my style, but when the word Jesus comes about, people definitely get uncomfortable.

As a guy who mixes jazz with spiritual ideas, it's funny to see the way people react differently to the word "gospel" which just usually means "black" to most white folks, and the word "Christian" which scares the "beJesus" out of most folks.

You can talk all day about the church, God, religion, etc, but the minute the words Jesus or Christ enter the conversation, people instantly get a bit unnerved. Isn't it funny that 2000 plus years later, Jesus still has that effect on people?

To be honest, I'd rather be more Jesus that Miles, Monk, or anyone, but that's easier said than done...and probably a whole other blog.

But whatever you do, I implore you to celebrate the Jazz in you, whatever that may be. For me it's originality, creativity, positivism, musicality, and Jesus.

So what's the Jazz in YOU?

Thanks for reading!

Eric Copeland is a producer, jazz artist, and all around self-proclaimed creative prophet. He takes his creative message out across the country each year and his company "Creative Soul" works with jazz and gospel musicians from around the world.

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