The Divine Improv

The Divine Improv

Sunday, March 7, 2004
| Philippians 3:17-4:1

During a small jam session in New York City, jazz great, Wynton Marsalis, was doing just fine until a cell phone went off, totally destroying the mood. What happened next is a lesson for all of us who would like to learn how to improvise when life doesn’t go according to plan.


You know it when you hear it. It’s cool. It’s soulful.

It’s intense. Improvisation is an act of spontaneous composition and performance, and it lies at the very heart of great American jazz. You can hear it in jazz clubs all across the country, but if you want the really good stuff, you better go to the Village Vanguard in New York City.

The Vanguard doesn’t serve food, and they don’t take American Express — or any credit cards, for that matter. And yet, the club has survived in all its subterranean glory for over 60 years, and has featured the rousing riffs of some of the greatest jazz musicians in the world. Wander in on a weekday evening, and who knows — you might be treated to a trumpet solo by a superstar such as Wynton Marsalis.

That’s exactly what happened to David Hajdu, a writer who stumbled into the Vanguard one Tuesday night and had an amazing experience. Wynton Marsalis, one of the truly exalted rulers of the jazz universe, was part of a small combo offering up ...

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