Spiritual Jazz

June 6, 2020 2 By Lance Kelly

When jazz musicians become proficient, there’s nothing more creative than being able to improvise and respond to whatever’s being played, come what may, in the melodic exchange. To a musician liberated from the structure of mind and able to respond from a place of true creative freedom, there’s no wrong note just as there’s no right way to play. The perfection is the uncertainty of the musical journey; the genius is in being fearless to enter the unknown but able to return at will to the formal arrangement. Instrumental to spiritual jazz is to respond in whatever way the moment decrees to be in harmony with the great movement of life.

Each note on a musical scale corresponds to the next to create a sequence that can be played as a progression of melodic intervals. Similarly, each living moment contributes to a timeless score called the song of life. Sometimes we’re fully connected to the creative intensity of this inner symphony and its purpose without beginning or end. We’re then able to improvise and be spontaneous without thought or intent but immersed in the creative expression of the moment. But without being able to return at will to the conception of life itself, the knowledge of the purity of creation without form will be unknowable. To fill this vacuum, registered as isolation from the creative source, many of the great jazz players sought solace with the opiate of drugs to bridge the interval between the time of the world and the next chance to find sanctuary in the expression of their art on stage.

Just as the great jazz players were musical pioneers, each contributing something revolutionary to the changing perspective of the times, so the great spiritual masters have each contributed something new and original for humanity. The difference is that the spiritual player is an instrument of the Divine and differs from the jazz musician, for whom there’s a hidden price to be paid in existence. This is the accrual of time which, for an artist, is often registered more acutely when the impossibility of ever completing the life’s work becomes apparent, regardless of what’s been attained in the mastery of their art. Any truly great artist perceives this and perhaps smiles at the futility of their labours in only scratching the surface of the never completed picture that their art represents.

Negation is spiritual power. It’s the creative freedom to be what I am while simultaneously eliminating the past as time. This is what every jazz player and artist has ever desired as a way of self-expression in the world. While the passion, which is the lifeblood of every artist, is stoked by the movement to play or paint – or do anything as the main thrust in the life – the individual is gathering more experience which attaches them to the world. Negation is being conscious of the purpose beyond art or any form of self-expression. It’s living in the world but not being identified with its effects as anything lasting or permanent. It’s the conscious surrender of the last moment and refusal to dwell on the past.

It’s not the pursuit of the excellence of art that’s the problem but the attachment to the drive to create. Only that which is acknowledged lingers in existence, as only that which is acknowledged out of existence has the power to dissolve the past. And that’s jazz.