Several years ago I hired Mike Janzen (jazz pianist/ arranger) to write simple piano arrangements for several of my songs to be collated into a songbook. He did the preliminary work on his own, but before publication I flew out to Toronto for a couple of days to go over the arrangements and make final adjustments. It is tedious work at best and at the end of the second, long day we were both more than a little punch-drunk from staring at all those little black dots and jots. By the time we were finished we were a positively giddy with fatigue, and Mike, being the ham he is, sat at the piano and started playing hilarious lounge-lizard jazz renditions of one my songs.
Mike can really play, as you likely already know, and even when he’s just horsing around he still makes incredible music. We were both laughing hard at one particular scenario he was developing when all of a sudden his face changed as an idea came over him and he started to really dig in, but seriously now. It was like a ball suddenly bounced in front of him and he was helpless but to chase it. And the music became almost otherworldly as his fingered imagination danced around the chord structure and melody my song provided. I was mesmerized to hear my simple song flame out and become something almost entirely “other” but because I knew the song so intimately, no matter how “outside” the improvisation became, my ear never lost reference to the melody and structure Mike’s imagination was leaping off of.
And that’s when I suddenly saw it – the burning bush of Moses in the Sinai desert; a desert vast, rugged and barren but for this curious sight. I could see the solitary Moses standing motionless, staggered completely by what he saw. I could see the glory of the blaze, ferociously surging skyward creating dizzying heat-waves against the pale blue. Interior to the fire, obscured by flame but not lost to sight, was the bush itself with it’s sturdy center stem, black branches like a menorah and green leaves fluttering furiously in the energy. It remained entirely intact and unconsumed yet, absolutely on fire. And I started to tear up for I understood immediately the bush to be the human person and the flame to be the glory of God which emblazons and ennobles without obliterating or consuming. I caught a glimpse of the astonishing humility of God and the glorifying nature of His presence. I understood that the least thing I have to fear in the presence of God is the loss of myself. And I understood that this is True…this is Good… this is Jazz. Everything to the contrary is tragic.
~ Steve Bell
The Mike Janzen Trio (including the legendary George Koller on bass and Ben Riley on drums) is performing a CD release concert at the prestigious Glen Gould Studio in Toronto January 29/11.
The album is brilliant and sonically gorgeous. Mike, his playing, creativity, good humor and voice shine on this project like none other. You’ll not want to miss it if you are able to take it in. The venue only seats 300 so don’t delay getting your tickets ($25).
Details and tickets click HERE
You can purchase Mike’s CD from him on the night of the concert (that’s the best scenario for Mike as he makes the most money from direct sales.) But if you can’t make it there, you can order from us on-line. Your purchase goes far to support and encourage the continuation of delightful creativity and beauty so needed in our times. Thanks.
To purchase on-line, click HERE
To read a brief review Steve posted before Christmas and listen to a cut from the album, click HERE