CJA Featured Interview With David
did you start developing a love for Jazz music?
I was about 13 I started learning how to play the
piano by ear. I started listening to the singer Lou
Rawls and keyboardist Ramsey Lewis and by ear started
transcribing what the keyboard players were doing.
Also listened to the British piano player Nicky
Hopkins, who was an incredible blues pianist! Also
my family attended a Pentecostal church and even
though it was primarily a white church there were
plenty of piano and organ players who loved Black
Gospel music, jazz voicings, ect. And so it was church
where I developed my taste for Jazz and swing!
you study Jazz piano formally and if so where?
Prior to learning how to play the piano I had 7
years of violin and viola as well as sang in the top
choral groups in my school. So I could read music but
piano music was somewhat difficult for me to read
since I had started out learning to play by ear. But
when I went to college and immersed myself in Music
Harmony and Theory that really let the sunlight in!
I became the accompanist for the College touring
choir! ( but still ended up improvising what was
written ha-ha-!) If I liked what was written I played it--if
not I did my own thing!!! But this method really
helped me with my writing and improvisational
do you consider some of the main influences on
your writing and playing Jazz?
I love gospel music and there are many great piano
players in churches that use jazz voicings mixed in
with blues and r&b. Joe Sample, Jeff Lorber,
Ramsey Lewis, Bob James, Rob Mullins and many
others. These guys have great chops but they are all
great writers as well! Many played in churches
and the beautiful thing about playing in church is
that you are constantly reminded of the spiritual
connection between music and God!
I listen for is the melody, groove, harmony, and
changes and how they have an overall emotional
effect on me. Music has to touch the emotions in a
deep way. Of course emotions can be of almost an
infinite variety but music has to say something that
involves feelings or else I don't continue to listen
course great soloing and a high level of
musicianship is also admirable. But what sets up the
soloing is the way the groove, changes, and
arrangement builds the song to create whatever feel
and emotional character the particular song is
structured to create.
over the years I have developed a great love for
Latin rhythms and jazz that includes a Latin feel. I
love the Bossa Nova and the Samba! This has
influenced my writing and Jazz compositions of late.
often do you get to lead Jazz in worship
am very fortunate where I lead worship at on Sundays!
I use jazz-flavored worship music every Sunday.
Something funky, something that swings, something
Latin or Brazilian, whatever. But I also use a
variety of styles as well. And I am also careful not
to let the music get in the way of the words but
rather make the music enhance the lyrical content.
It might be a hymn or it might be a chorus.
did you decide to start an organization for
Christian Jazz Artists?
Because I saw so many great jazz artists who were
Christians but many were not connected or plugged in
to other Christian Jazz musicians or even aware that
they existed! And I felt that there was a real need
for all of us to unite and join together for the
greater good which means increased exposure for our
music and our message!!
Christian musicians take a passive stance toward
promoting their music and their message. I can almost
picture God saying, " What are you waiting for?
How easy (and boring ) would it be for us if all we
had to do was to wait passively until God "
opened the doors" for more engagements and
opportunities to play? We have been given the talents
and the abilities to not only create beautiful music
but also to get out there and open some doors for
ourselves and for others! ( This is not to imply that
there isn't a proper place and time to "wait on
God"!) In the book of Jeremiah it says,
"They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their
strength", but a better translation is, " They
that look upon the Lord shall renew their
strength!" Sitting around thinking, " one of
these days" just doesn't cut it!!!
gave us the gift of writing and playing music for a
reason and sharing our music is part of his desire for
our lives. His Spirit can energize us and give us
strength and desire to share the music He has so
sharing our ideas and working together we can
accomplish much more than what just one Christian
Artist can do by himself! Drops in a bucket really
add up to a full bucket!
noticed that the
Christian Jazz Artist Network has really been
growing lately. Why such a sudden and dramatic burst
one of the main reasons is because Christian Jazz
Artists are realizing that there are many, many
others artists just like themselves who have a love
for God and Jazz.
many churches across the country have gotten tired
of hearing and singing cute little, "campfire
songs"! Many of the worship songs being written
today all sound the same and they are so
predictable. Jazz has a lot of energy and there is
freedom to play or write something different. And
when everyone is playing with energy and purpose the
spiritual energy comes through and the whole
congregation or audience senses it! Listeners want
to hear more than just three predictable chords in a
I believe it is God moving and working in all of us to
savor the wonderful music He has given us and unite
for the purpose of being able to touch many lives with
the good news! It is time to wake up, smell the
coffee, and make the most of the days that we have
because every day, every breath and moment is a
gracious gift and handout from the Creator!
is very exciting and encouraging to see all the
renewed interest by Christians who love to play Jazz!
Even the younger generation is picking up on it. ( See
the press release in this newsletter about a group of
younger musicians, "Denver & The Mile High
Orchestra" who are playing Big Band Swing across
the country!!) We must see to it that Jazz isn't lost
on the younger generations coming up. We must
celebrate our music and never stop educating and
promoting it...even when you sometimes feel your music
is falling upon deaf ears!!!!
can Christian Jazz Artists do to get more exposure for
Network with other Christian Jazz Musicians. Don't
isolate yourself in a studio only creating music and
new CD's. Start thinking of ways to find and create
more opportunities to play out in the public. Call
Pastors at churches and look for other Christians who
might be interested in helping to promote Christian
Jazz Concerts, Jazz Vespers, Jazz Worship workshops,
whatever. There are many Christian Jazz Artists who
are starting to play at Christian Coffee houses and I
think that is a fabulous idea. Just imagine if people
in cities all over the country opened up coffee houses
where Christian Jazz Artists could play and give jazz
lovers the opportunity to not only hear great Jazz
music but also be able to hear and experience
first-hand the spiritual connection between music,
creativity, and God!
you are writing or arranging Jazz flavored worship
music, make sure that you use it in your worship
services. Share your arrangements with other worship
leaders and CJA members. Collaborate with other
Christian Jazz Artist.
are presently looking into organizing an annual CJA
Network Jazz Festival to be held in a major city once
a year. We have also been contacted by promoters in
other countries and will be endeavoring to take some
CJA groups to Jazz festivals everywhere! But it will
take the efforts and cooperation of all the CJA
Network members as well as many others who have a real
love and vision to see Jazz promoted and played
by Jazz musicians who happen to be Christians!
down and brainstorm about ways to promote your Jazz
music as well as the music of other Christian Jazz
Artists and then follow through on those ideas!
us about some of your more recent recordings.
Well, the last few years have been very busy for me!
In 2002 I recorded 4 CD projects. One is "Island
Fun" which is what I like to call
"tropical-flavored smooth jazz"! There are
some Latin influenced jazz on that CD but there are
also a sprinkle of contemporary jazz as well. Then I
recorded "Keyboard Meditations", which is
much more reflective and meditative piano and
keyboards. I also recorded, "Prayerful Mediations",
which is a mixture of Hymns and worship choruses
melded together to create an atmosphere conducive for
prayer, meditation, or just for quieting yourself
before the Lord. The other recording is a worship CD
with a variety of styles with the Christian Vocal
group, "Fresh Fire" entitled, " Are You
Ready?". I wrote all the songs and they along
with many others are available for purchase for use in
churches on the Songs Of David Web Site.
am very excited about the new upcoming CJA Network compilation
CD! There are 16 Hymns that have been arranged in a
very wide variety of jazz styles. Some are
instrumental and some have vocals. I believe it is one
of the finest collections of "jazzed-up"
hymns ever compiled! We are working very hard to get
national distribution for this recording and are also
working on getting distribution in other parts of the
world as well! And this is only the first of many CJA
Network CD's I want to see released!!
have started an Internet Radio Station, "Smooth
Pizzazz". What's that all about?
Pizzazz is an internet radio station that features
many Christian Jazz Artists recordings ( not only CJA
Network members!) There
are also other top secular Jazz artists music played.
Then I have some inspirational quotes ( nothing
overtly preachy) weaved throughout the broadcast. Of
course many of the secular Jazz artists also have a
spiritual quality in some of their lyrics and music. (
After all everyone is made in God's image and whether
they profess to be Christians or not the fact still
remains that the Creator gave them the gifts they
possess. So in that sense it is still music that gives
God glory whether they mean to do that or not!!) It is
a great station to listen to whether you are a
Christian or not! And the listening environment is
very conducive for those who are
"seekers" to hear jazz music that is
inspiring and that has a definite spiritual impact on
station is doing quite well. We are already ranked
17th out of more than 100 Jazz stations on Live 365!!
The plan is to take the program and place it on FM stations
is the most memorable worship service you have ever
I would have to say one of the worship services at a
church in Southern California where I used to be the
Music Director and Worship Leader. It was a pretty
large church, (about 2000) I had some horn players
that were phenomenal ( some were playing on the Johnny
Carson Show at the time) so they could read and play
the high notes! I had about a 80 voice choir and
a great rhythm section as well!
started playing this song that the Brooklyn Tabernacle
choir used to do, "One Less Stone" and it
has a gospel swing feel. When
all of this was energized by the Spirit the building
seemed to literally be "rocked" by the
presence of God! I mean, I felt totally overwhelmed by
the presence of God while playing the 9'ft. Concert
grand! Many of the players we hired each week became believers
because they recognized that there is just an entirely
different dimension when people give their all in
music to the glory of God!
Nothing else quite like it!!! It is what I call "
close encounters of the first kind"!!!! Of course
one could say that it was just because there were so
many people and that is why the place seemed
energized. But I have experienced the same thing in my
car by myself when the presence of God
me in such a deep way without the worship teams, band,
and Orchestra! I wouldn't suggest that this is or
should be the norm but oce you have tasted of living
water nothing else even comes close!
is your favorite church hymn and why?
many of the older hymns are really wonderful so it is
really hard to choose just one.
key to the hymns for me are the words and content.
Having spent years in Bible College and Seminary have
helped shape my outlook on Church Music. Take the lyrical
content away from the hymns and there is still merit to the
music but it doesn't have the same meaning or impact
without them. But one of my favorites has to be,
" O To Be Like Thee ". The last phrase of
says," stamp Thine own image deep in my heart"!
That sums up what being a Christian is all about...to
put into practice in our everyday lives what Jesus
taught. Not just to sing clever songs about Him but to
do what He said! I have recently re-introduced an old
chorus at our church and here are the words,
Be Like Jesus, To Be Like Jesus
I ask Is to be like Him
through life's journey
earth to glory
I ask is to be like him!