1) When did you start developing a love for Jazz
As far back as I can remember, jazz was very appealing to
the rare occasions where a black gospel or
otherwise jazzy tune would show up in church (such
as the Clara Ward Gospel Singers), I would sit
enthralled by the sounds.
I also remember catching a TV show called
“Cal’s Corral” once in a great while, which
was actually probably bits of Texas swing, but it
sounded great to me as well.
Groups like the Paul Butterfield Blues Band
held great fascination for me, but the first real
jazz album I got was the Jo Jones Trio which
included Ray Bryant on piano.
I wore the grooves off that vinyl, which
led to the pursuit of Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans,
and many others.
2) Did you study Jazz formally and if so where?
I studied jazz piano privately with Dick Powell in Orange
County, CA, then arranging with Bill Baker,
orchestration with Albert Harris, conducting with
Alan Fierman, but the main influence was Dick
Grove, with whom I studied privately in Hollywood
prior to the inception of his jazz school.
Dick made it all happen for me, and I
really enjoyed his concept for big band writing -
sort of in the Gil Evans bag.
I also took college courses along the way
and amassed a few hundred thousand units in stage
band, including at L.A. City College which
included players like David Paich, Jon Clayton,
Don Grusin, John Hernandez (Oingo Boingo), and
various members of Buddy Rich’s band, whom I
heard by traveling 2 blocks from my home to
Disneyland, and paying the 60 cents child entrance
3) Who do you consider some of the main influences on
your writing and playing?
There are so many, I hardly know where to begin. Actually
Burt Bacharach had a big influence on my
I loved the way his melodies jumped large
intervals, and also loved his unexpected harmonic
always loved Quincy Jones, and ate up the Buddy
Rich Big Band albums in junior high featuring the
writing of Don Piestrup.
Also in junior high the Sergio Mendes
albums had a large influence on me, including the
beautiful arrangements of Dave Grusin.
Michel Legrand was probably the major
arranging influence with his adventurous soaring
strings – a sound I discovered from viewing the
Summer of 42 film.
4) You have mentioned Claus Ogerman and Bob James as
influences on your music. How did that come about? I
discovered Claus via the gorgeous Jobim albums, of
which I have many. I love his classically influenced style, and found it to be
the perfect compliment for Jobim’s melodies.
And Bob James’ early albums for CTI were
also very harmonically interesting and provided
“lessons” for me.
5) What was the nature of your involvement with Quincy Jones?
Quincy called my answer machine and asked if
I could do some arranging for a couple of Japanese
tours he was doing, which of course I was thrilled
to do. My
only regret was not saving the recording of his
voice – which almost made me faint initially.
6) You have a new CD release of your own, "
Jazzwerk". Tell us more about that project.
Jazzwerk is a “double cd on one” that includes all 12
songs from our surround sound DVD-Audio
“Eklektrik” plus 6 new songs – all in stereo
You can listen to audio excerpts and purchase
David's CD here
7) There are some tunes on your new CD that have a
Brazilian/Latin influence. Share with us
where that influence comes from. ( By the way I
really love the tune "Stumble" which is
a mixture of jazz and R & B from your Jazzwerk
Glad you’ve enjoyed Stumble –
earlier mentioned, I’ve always enjoyed Brazilian
music, and have composed many sambas, bossa novas,
Feliz” from Jazzwerk was a tune I recently wrote
and gave to Ana Gazzola, from the group Brazil
Brasil, and she was gracious enough to write some
Portuguese lyrics, and also to sing the song on
the CD. Joey
Heredia is an amazing latin/jazz drummer who plays
in my group and always lends a latin touch to the
tunes as well.
8) Who are some of the musicians
that played on Jazzwerk?
I was fortunate to have the great musicians from my
live band – the above mentioned Joey Heredia, as
well as Brandon Fields-sax, and Hussain Jiffry-bass.
The album also features my daughter Rachel,
who is an amazing singer, composer, and performer.
Rachel wrote many of the vocal tunes, and
sings a couple of mine as well. We were also happy to have guest appearances by Jimmy Haslip
from Yellowjackets, Vinnie Colaiuta of Sting fame,
Bobby Rodriguez, Doug Cameron, Steve Lukather, and
many other great musicians.
9) What has been your most challenging recording project that
you have ever worked on?
Probably a TV special called “Firewind” which was
challenging in a bad way.
I didn’t yet understand the politics and
physics of the music business, which is about 90%
of what one has to deal with in a music career. Other than that, most projects have challenges, which are
what makes each of them new and exciting, allowing
us the variety that we need as artistic people.
10) There is an unusual increase in the amount of Jazz that is
being used in churches these days. This may be a
response to many writers and musicians being burnt
out on much of the recent alternative worship
music. Share your thoughts about this.
I’d give Koinonia some credit along with groups like
Seawind who pioneered the early appearance of jazz
in contemporary Christian music.
I’d also say that some of the worship
music is a bit simple in its lyrical content these
days. It’s hard to compare some of the simpler praise tunes which
talk about “just believing and everything will
be fine” to the amazing hymns that have
withstood centuries and were written in many cases
after major catastrophes such as losing one’s
whole family – things like that.
Since jazz is such an expressive musical
form, I think it fits like a glove with praise and
worship to the One who created all music.
11) I noticed that recently you were doing a concert at a
Christian College In La Mirada, CA? Was this
specifically a jazz gig or what? Are you finding
more opportunities to play jazz as a Christian
Artist or are most of your gigs considered
I’m on the board of the Conservatory of
Music at Biola University of late, along with Wil
Kennedy formally of Yellowjackets, and some other
great musicians, and Biola has a “Music at
Noon” concert series which we’ve been blessed
to play at the last 2 years.
The first time we played it was the 1 year
anniversary of 9/11 so it was a somber event.
This last one was on Ash Wednesday and was
also on the day of release of Mel Gibson’s
Passion film, which was a much more positive day.
We love sharing God’s musical gifts with
college students, particularly the great kids at
Otherwise, many of our gigs are at local
secular jazz establishments.
12) Do you play keys in church? If so tell us a little
I do. We attend
a small church in Westlake, CA called Rivers
Community. Being small, they have much more need for what I can bring to
help with the music & worship.
13) What is your favorite church hymn and why?
I would have to say, “In The Garden” since it was sung by
my mother’s 4 year old sister as she passed away
many years ago.
I recorded a jazz version on the “Eye of
the Storm” CD, and have since played it at both
my father’s and my mother’s funerals, so it
holds a special place in my heart. It’s another example of the fine inspired truth of the Lord
as He’s given it to us through the great hymn
writers of history. ( *Note David’s jazz
arrangement of “In The Garden” will be
included on the upcoming CJA Hymn Compilation CD to
be released very soon!)
14) Do you find a spiritual connection in playing and writing
music? Do you feel a spiritual connection while
Yes, I do, particularly in those rare occasions when the
song literally comes in minutes, to be written
down on an available paper napkin – something
like that. Without
being too mystical, all music is a gift from God
and it continues to amaze me as it reveals His
glory and truth.
15) Out of all the songs you have ever heard or played share
with us one song that has really touched you in a
I played tympani in several different church performances of
“The Seven Last Words of Christ” by Dubois as
a young teen.
One of the “words” is a beautiful piece
of music which goes something like “Verily thou
shalt be, with Me in paradise today”.
I was very affected by that experience, and
that was one of the things that led me to explore
the beauty of the hymns, which I had previously
found rather simple and (ahem) boring.
16) What future goals do you have planned for yourself as an
artist and a person?
In many ways, I’ve accomplished a great deal of what I
would have hoped to in my life.
I have a wonderful family, and even a
I’ve worked for many wonderful people for
many years including Pat Boone, Richie Furay and
others, and I would say just to continue to do
more of the same, and to use His gifts to
hopefully bless others in the process.
I’m enjoying electronica these days, in
spite of some of the trappings of its origin
(raves, etc.), but I’m always open to new ways
to create the music we all love.
Article "Are You Really Listening"
You Really Listening?
I hear the
rhythm of life in music,
hear the rhythm of life in song;
know the rhythm of life is beating,
the rhythm of life is strong;
feel the rhythm of life around me,
the rhythm is everywhere...
la musica de la vida ( Hear the music of life!)
Lyrics from choral composer Jay Althouse’s song
“Oye La Musica”)
are words that catch your attention and are definitely
worthy of further reflection! The music of life is
indeed everywhere but the question is this -- are we
really truly listening? Are we truly, "savoring
the music"? Are we really grateful for the gift
of listening and hearing? Or do we take it for
course listening is a skill that most of us musicians
really pride ourselves on and we usually give
ourselves high grades in this area. Jazz
guitarist/composer Pat Metheny once shared that, “My
first relationship to any kind of musical situation is
as a listener.” Careful, attentive listening is
vital to a satisfying musical experience.
there are many different things you can listen for when listening to a recording. There is the
groove, the changes, the words, the arrangement, the
bass, drums, piano, horns, and many other aspects as
well. You can listen to learn more about your
instrument, hearing other people’s chops,
improvising, and writing skills. And this is all well
and good. But sometimes unfortunately it is easy to
become stuck in a listening rut where you are only
listening for certain things instead of listening to
the spirit of the music and being able to respond to
it. The French Composer Claude Debussy put it this
way, "There is no theory. You have only to
listen. Pleasure is the law."
And Keith Jarrett once said this, “Jazz is
there and gone. It happens. You have to be present for
it. That simple.” Wow! You have to be present for
it. I would go even further and say that you have to
be listening in the present moment, listening with an
open heart and not with just your head!
reminded of the story of the Rabbi who had a member in
his synagogue who always seemed to be in a hurry, his
motor ( so to speak) always running at full throttle.
The Rabbi asked him," Whenever I see you, your
always in a hurry. Tell me, where are you running to
all the time? The man answered,” I’m running after
success, I’m running after fulfillment, I’m
running after the reward for all my hard work.” The
Rabbi responded, “ That’s a good answer if you
assume that all those blessings are ahead of you,
trying to elude you and if you run fast enough, you
may catch up with them. But isn’t it possible that
those blessings are behind you, that they are looking
for you, and the more you run, the harder you make it
for them to find you?”
have a saying I use quite a bit that fits very well at
this juncture--- “celebrate today and savor the
music!” Take time to really listen to music. Slow
down, turn off the TV and try to avoid any
distractions. Sit down, relax, and savor the music.
Close your eyes and allow yourself to respond
emotionally as well as intellectually to the music.
would go further and ask are you hearing the music of
life? Are you listening not just to recorded music but
also to the "Oye La Musica"?
Author and Pastor Frederich Beuchner has
written some really profound words concerning this.
to your life... I have discovered that if you keep
your eye peeled and your ears open, if you really pay
attention to it then it will open up to extraordinary
vistas. Taking your children to school and kissing
your spouse goodbye. Eating lunch with a friend.
Trying to do a decent day’s work. Hearing the rain
patter against the window. There is no event so
commonplace but that God is present in it, always
hiddenly, always leaving you to recognize Him or not
recognize Him, but all the more fascinatingly because
of that, all the more compellingly and hauntingly…If
I were called upon to state in a few words the essence
of everything I was trying to say as a novelist and as
a preacher, it would be something like this: Listen to
your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it
is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the
excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way
to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last
analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself
a breathtaking statement! If we will take time to wake
up and smell the flowers, ( and the coffee!) and start
listening we will be able to hear the beautiful
‘music of life’ itself! Since God created life it
is holy and to be treasured moment by moment.
saxophonist and composer Uwe Steinmetz reflects on his
reasoning for becoming a musician: "As I thought
more about my motivation for becoming a musician, I
discovered that I had two 'unbalanced' sides to
myself. 'One side was the contemplative one, that
simply liked to listen to music, read poetry and
observe nature and the visual arts. In this way I
discovered something like "God"--a
manifestation of the eternal beauty and truth behind
reality.' But I also recognized egocentric feelings
'that poisoned the message of my
music and influenced the way I interacted with
others. My music had become just a form of
self-expression. When I grasped the difference between
what was really meaningful to me and the music that I
was doing, I saw that I was heading for a dead-end
street--both for my music and in my life.'
easy to get trapped in this dilemma if we fail to
listen and recognize the gracious Spirit and giver of
all that is good. Rev. Joel Miller exclaims, "We
must take time to listen to the Spirit! In my
experience, if we are really listening to the holy,
the Spirit of Life is calling out to us: “Improvise!
Be Cool! The
beat is life, love is the key, and you’re all
players, so listen and be funky.” To be able to respond and improvise you must be listening!
Steinmetz went on to find a much deeper spiritual
experience by listening and paying attention to other
peoples needs, and by responding to the voice of the
Spirit. As a result his music and writing took on a
much deeper and more satisfying nature.
Our modern preoccupation with producing and
consuming mass quantities can lead us to a place where
we are left with nothing more but a unhealthy
narcissist focus upon ourselves.
a matter of fact when we truly are listening to the
Spirit the music flows! To be in communion with that
which is holy is the source for an infinite variety of
musical expression! If we center ourselves only on the
finite things we are missing out on an incredible
amount of great music!!
Many times we as artists become too
concerned whether others are listening to our music
instead of us really listening to the music of others,
the music of life, and the voice of the Spirit.
I read about this great interview on CNN with Tom
Arnold, the comedian. He had just wrote a book and the
interviewer asked him," Why did you write this
said, "The reason I wrote this book is because I
am a broken person, and I do things to get people to
most of us musicians are in the exact same boat as
Arnold! We are broken people, checking our CD sales
and other stats to see if we really are people of
significance. We keep asking the questions, does my music and
my life really matter? But the answer to this isn't
really found in the amount of our CD sales, fame, or
financial success from our music. On the contrary, our
deep need for significance is answered by truly
listening and savoring the gift of life, music, and
God! Are you really listening?
Written by David Arivett Ó
2004 Songs Of David
can hear the song “Oye La Musica” by visiting
the CJA download page. It is one of this months
featured free downloads!)