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Jazz of Life

I don't know about you, but I LOVE that there is a public jazz station here in the Portland listening area. I listen to KMHD at the office and think about my dad, a jazz drummer, still gigging and playing some tasty licks at 90! (You can read a little more about him in my post from a few weeks ago.)

As a kid I learned to play the flute (easy to carry back and forth to school) and in my early teen years I discovered jazz flute. Having listened to my dad, I was familiar with the improv that jazz music invited. When I discovered Yuseff Lateef and Herbie Mann, I found my groove. Even Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull inspired me to mess around with my flute and discover what kind of music I could make beyond the notes printed on a page.


When my dad invited me to play with his band one summer I was thrilled (and scared) to join him in "playing out". I had to trust that all of the practice, all of the study around progressions, breaks, and tonality would allow me to add something to the trio and the music they made.


When I shifted from ballet to modern and then contact improv, I brought my jazz training with me, learning a new language of embodied progressions, breaks and tonality. When I was introduced to InterPlay I discovered the language and structure that made so much of what I already understood from jazz and contact improv useable in almost any setting. Add to that a course I took in seminary called The Jazz of Preaching and I was movin' and groovin' with the Spirit in this life of ministry.


You see, jazz is a philosophy, a way of life, that allows me to think WITH people, places and things. It is a tool kit that encourages experimentation within a container. In it, there is room to explore while honoring the key or tempo established at the start. There is great freedom and joy in jazz. For me, leading a life through the lens of jazz invites more joy and freedom even when life feels full of constraint.


A life of faith, in and through Christ, is one that feels very jazzy to me. To be willing to utter the words, "Here I am. Send me.", is to enter a state of improv with our Creator who knows the key we sing and swing best within, the rhythm that we can move to and with, to find that deep sense of joy and partnership, where we feel most alive.


I can no longer play the flute but I do live the philosophy of jazz every day. All The Jazz, my dad's band, has lost two members since this video was taken, but two new folks have joined and the music plays on! We've got two more years of jazz to live before the band changes members and a new version of your song of love gets played. May the God of Jazz inspire us to explore, create and know deep joy as we play together this fall.


With peace and play,

Pastor Robin






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