As promised in the previous issue, John Patitucci 's interview with Jazz Gospel Central turned out to be much more than just an interview--it was an amazing opportunity to share a blessing of unmatched proportions as John expounded on his personal relationship with the Lord within the context of the gift of music. And I would certainly have to agree with John that without the Lord none of what is achievable in music, especially at the level he enjoys, could ever be possible. Read and experience the rare humility, awesome talent and powerful wisdom of John Patitucci, "A Jazz Musician After God's Own Heart" Part #2.
JazzGospelCentral.com : What would you say as to how your Christian faith has impacted the music that you write and how you perform?
John: Heavily. I've done a lot of writing. I've done a lot of music for the church that I go to [Trinity Presbyterian Church in Rye, NY, where he serves as a deacon]. If you remember Songs, Stories and Spirituals, there's a strings and voices version of "In the Bleak Midwinter." I wrote that originally at my church. I've written a lot of music for the church like that, a ton of stuff that I'll eventually make available because people at other churches will ask me can we do that arrangement you did of such and such. I've done a lot of re-harmonization of hymns, as well. And, I continue to do that because that music is important to me. I think that when you believe in the God of creation and the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, when you have that kind of faith, and you even scratch the surface of what an unspeakable and unfathomable creative force that is, that changes your music a lot. When you also live through life as a spiritual person and you've had to confront your sins and also go through tragedies and you've had some victories that shape you a lot. And, when you write your music, you have a story to tell based on those experiences that you deal with. Like for my wife and me, we lost two children before we had our kids. We had a miscarriage and then a stillbirth. Those kinds of things shape you because they test your faith to your core. And, also my marriage, it made us so much closer then we already were. So, we've walked through a lot of things. She's a great musician, too. All these kinds of experiences and all the beautiful things that have happened. My brother is an associate pastor of a church out West and we talk about this. Being a Christian is really about how to simultaneously rejoice with people who have great joy about things and to mourn with people who are really going through some rough stuff. You have to be able to do that simultaneously. So that affects your musical life, I think.
JGC: You've performed music at a level of virtuosity that, at least from what I've seen, seems to know no limits or boundaries. What would you say to up and coming musicians seeking to play and perform at that level?
John: Obviously, it starts with the Lord. He gives you a gift and you have to develop it. Someone once said that being a great musician is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. Hard work! I'd have to say that it's a double-edge sword. On one hand, without the inspiration that comes from the Lord and that power that spoke the universe into existence, that talent and the gift and the passion for it, it wouldn't matter how hard you practice. You can have the greatest work ethic in the world, but if that's not where your gifts lie, then it will never happen. However, what happens more often than not, is you see people with the gift who don't do the hard work to develop it. I've seen that a lot with students and people; and I would say work ethic and the development and the understanding that with that gift comes a heck of a responsibility to develop it. That's a huge thing. There are so many people who want to play music, but not everybody has that gift. So, if someone has that gift and then they don't really work hard - God calls us to excellence - that's a problem that sometimes gets people in church in trouble with music. They don't grasp the fact that if you're going to make music for God, it better be the best music you can come up with. It better be the highest level of music and it had better be music befitting a king. That means get in the wood shed and don't come out till you get it right. So, I take it very seriously. I'm a big practice-er. The other side of that is you can practice until you're blue in the face what you have to do when you're playing music you have to be vulnerable emotionally and spiritually otherwise all that technical ability means nothing unless you're telling a story with it. If you're coming to the stage with the spirit of big me, look how I can do it, that's not going to be it. You have to be vulnerable and you have to be willing to really take chances and put yourself out there, put your heart on the line, that's when people are moved. That's what I'm trying to do, move people. My goal is not to impress them with my technique; my goal is to make them feel something--to have something stir inside of them. That's more important to me.
JGC: What I've found is, just like what you're saying, when you're before people and you are allowing the Lord to really work through you and allow people to feel something, it really transcends even the knowledge and the preparation that you've had technically. It allows God to use you in that setting to really give Himself glory. I can definitely identify with what you're saying. I have one more question. I just wanted to ask you what are you currently working on and what can we expect to hear from you in the near future?
John: This next solo album comes out in August. It's with Brian Blade on drums, as you might guess, and Joe Lovano on saxophone. It's got acoustic and electric bass on it. It's a trio, so there's no piano or guitar on it. It's in the tradition of those records like Sonny Rollins. But, it also has some grooves on it. There's an African tune on it. There are some pieces with the electric bass. There's one tune that's like chord melody with the six-string and the saxophone and the drums. It's very interesting, with some percussion tracks. It has everything from straight ahead stuff, to West African groove on one tune, to some ballads, to all kinds of stuff on there. There's one tune called, "Messiaen's Gumbo," the French composer Messiaen. It uses some of his harmonic ideas over like a New Orleans real like kind of half second run and half "shufflely" funk thing that we do. There are all kinds of stuff. It's different. I think it's a very melodic record, as well. But it was exciting for me to do it because it leaves a lot of room for people to hear the bass and experience the different colors, the tones and different things. I'm excited about the sounds we got out of the instruments on this record.
JGC: It's been a pleasure speaking with you. Are there any other last thoughts you'd like to share?
John: The thing that sometimes use to drive me crazy is when I was younger, and I first started making records, I had people come up to me from some church somewhere and they would say, "When are you going to do a records for the Lord?" I would say, "Well, all my records are for the Lord. What are you talking about?" They would say, "Aren't you going to do a Christian album?" I'd say, "All my records are Christian albums." I'm a Christian. That means that everything that I do in my life is affected by my Lord. There's not two different worlds. People say there's a secular world and there's a Christian world. No, God doesn't say that. We live in the world, but we're suppose to be changing it and turning it more into what Heaven is suppose to be. We're supposed to be trying to do that eternal work here now. People forget that. They think well it's just going to be like this and we're going to go to Heaven later. It's kind of a cop-out sometimes. They try to either separate the thing into two worlds - the Christian world and there's a secular world - that's not what Jesus said though. We're in it, but not of it. That really means a lot when it comes to the music to me. The music is all from Him, and we have to always offer it up with the best music we can come up with. To me it's not in separate categories like people try to make it. I'm going to play with all my heart whether I'm at a club or whether I'm in church or whether I'm in a concert hall somewhere in Europe or whether I'm playing at Carnegie Hall. It's all the same to me because it's still the music that God has given me that I'm trying to reach people with. You just don't know who's listening and how they get touched by the music. I've had emails from people from all over the world that saw Jesus in the gig somewhere that I did. I don't know. I'm just a vessel. I'm trying to be available and trying to be the conduit. We have no idea. We just have to be faithful. That's the thing that I caution against. That distinction where people say when are you going to make a record of Christian music? Well, all my records are Christian. Some of them are even more blatant than others. There are some tunes on there; obviously it's not a big surprise when you call your record "Communion" or "Songs, Stories, and Spirituals." It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out. Also, I'm pretty out front with it in the liner notes always. And, it's not for show either. It's real common to hear people thank God on their records. Lots of people do that, but I think it was Billy Graham who said that the real measure of our Christian faith is how we treat the people that we live with in our house, our family. How are we in the house when nobody else is watching? How's our faith manifested in all those situations and challenges, raising kids and all that sort of stuff. That, to me, is the biggest challenge--raising children. That's the big one, where God puts the mirror in my face and says, you've got some work to do. You've got to raise these kids right. It's a big responsibility. That's what really makes me feel like I have a lot of work to do. I want to do the best I can. It's the most important job I'm ever going to do - raise my daughters.
John is very active at his church [Trinity Presbyterian, Rye, NY] serving as a deacon and working in Mercy Ministry. In addition he plays with Redeemer Presbyterian church in New York. John also did a lot of playing when he lived out in California in his early years for Maranatha! Music [b orn out of the local ministry of Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa]. John suggested that we check out Roby Duke, who passed away last year. Duke, who was from Mississippi, was a Gospel singer and an acoustic guitar player. He was a soulful kind of singer who was really a great talent. He did a lot of playing [studio] when he was in his late teens and living in California.
Jazz Gospel Central would like to sincerely thank John Patitucci for sharing with us and we look forward to experiencing the brilliant work God will perform through him in the near future.