The Jazz Musician

Jun 4th, 2010 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week
He was leaning into his piano as if it were a Gemara (volume of Talmud). He was playing with his entire body, not just his fingers. We would never confuse a jazz pianist with Rubinstein.

The saxophonist had one foot forward and was moving his body back and forth in a slow-motion Karliner shakel. I can’t picture him playing in an orchestra pit.

The trumpet player was shaking his head up and down while listening to the other musicians. He was in a different place when he expanded his cheeks and blew away. No, a jazz musician is very different from a classical performer.

The dance of the music, its flow and creativity, all demand that the musician sink into the music in a manner I’ve never seen in other forms of music. The Jazz musician is usually a “character,” whose formal skills are hidden by his total absorption.

“Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before the entire congregation.” And then, the man who felt so helpless that he fell on his face, stands up to argue with God. One minute, he is falling on his face, overwhelmed by the challenge of the people. The next, he stands with strength and determination before God.

Moshe not only spoke with words; he was the jazz musician, using his body to express his message. The man who had the courage to shatter God’s Luchot (Tablets) did not need to fall on his face because he felt helpless. Moshe Rabbeinu – Our Teacher – lived Torah as the Shira – Song – it is. Everything he did, everything he said and how he said it, was to express the music of the moment; the joy and the devastation, the thrills and the fears, the highs and the lows.

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