View Full Version : The Zen of Jazz.....

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09-02-2004, 01:18 PM
I have been listening to Jazz and Blues ever since I can remember. My father I guess kind of "conditioned" me ever since I was a small tike. I still to this day never get sick of listening to the recordings of Joe Pass, Al Demiola, Return To Forever, etc. I started playing the drums when I was around the age of 7. I was in the High School Jazz band, and now I currently play with a few people now and then. When I started to practice Zen, and later Aikido, I found that my creativity, and skill on the drum set, kinda opened up for some reason or another. I guess I could contribute this to having a more peaceful mind or somethin, but I really cant put my finger on it. I think that maybe Jazz and Blues, can relate to zen, and Aikido in more ways than one. Before being involed with them, music gave me almost the same tranquility that you may feel after doing zazen, or getting home from the dojo. I was wondering if anyone else can relate to this.

09-03-2004, 09:28 AM
OK Mathew. You just struck a chord with me. I started playing drums at age 6 and continued religiously until I was around 18. I took some time off and started up again at around 25. I went to Drummers Collective in NY and was coached by Kenwood Denard (Sting's former drummer).
I mainly listen to "old" jazz though- Monk, Coltrane, Parker, Dizzy, Miles, etc but also like a lot of blues from Robert Johhnson to S.R. Vaughn and Robert Cray. Also love that Louisana sound.
I really feel a connection between jazz and aikido- the freedom of movement, the ad libbing, the centeredness, etc It is a very Zen-like performance art.
In my aikido club I have another drummer and a friend of mines who visits often is a capoira stylist and jazz drummer. The DC area is ripe in jazz.

BTW- tell Clapp Sensei I said hi. We trained together a few times at Baltimore Aikido Academy. We had a good time.

09-04-2004, 10:22 AM
Enter and blend with the momentum of the rhythm, free flow improvisation based on the energy. Yep, sounds like jazz and Aikido to me.

09-04-2004, 12:03 PM
I love the older jazz to man. Hey lets start a Jazz club/dojo.......hahaha

Michael Young
09-05-2004, 07:03 PM
Good to know there are some other Jazz/Aikido fanatics like myself out there! (I was just sitting here surfing the net and listening to "Studio Jams" on the BET Jazz channel when I saw the title of this thread)....I've been a fan of Jazz for a long time too, and I can relate to what you're talking about. There are many parallels between Aikido and music, but Jazz in particular with its improvization. I personally play the piano/keyboards (albeit very badly) and bass. I can't count the number of times I've used the analogy of learning to play an instrument and music to learning Aikido...particularly when junior students start to express frustration with their "lack" of progress. Usually I'll ask people if they've ever tried to learn to play an instrument like the piano...you've got to start with basics, like learning how to read the notes on paper, where to put your fingers, how to sit at the keyboard, then you've got to learn the various scales, chords and modes, etc. Then you've got to..practice, practice, practice... before you can really start to "feel the groove" and play "in the moment". Thelonious Monk, Dave Brubeck, Vince Guaraldi, etc. make it look easy, and beautiful.... just like advanced Aikido practioners do. There are years of unseen practice when you listen/see those guys. Enough of my pontificating...

Keep swingin!


Ghost Fox
09-07-2004, 06:51 AM
Joseph Jarman the dojo-cho at Jikishinkan Dojo in Brooklyn is not only a Godan in Aikido, he is also a Zen priest and a world-renowned jazz musician.

Studying under him for the last five years I have seen how all of these various arts have blended together. His movements are fluid and have an impromptu edge I've rarely seen in other instructors. I really enjoyed working with him.

Anyway if anyone's interested here's a link that points to various bios on his life. Jarman (http://www.directmind.com/new_page_2.htm)

09-07-2004, 09:09 AM
Yes, I've heard of Jarman Sensei. I'm sorry I didn't have the opportunity to meet him while I was living in NYC. Hopefully on my next visit I will be able to stop by.

09-07-2004, 09:04 PM
Thats freakin cool.....think I need to move to NYC

David Warden
09-08-2004, 04:09 PM
I've just taken up Aikido a few months ago and I have found that my Saxophone playing has improved mainly due to be more relaxed (even with yonkyo bruises on the wrists) and my improvisation is coming along nicely

09-10-2004, 04:01 AM
Hi Matthew,

I can definitely relate to what you're saying. I was a jazz-fusion drummer for 30 years and would often find myself "in the zone" - meaning, that at that time, I had totally transcended beyond the mere mechanics of the playing into a place where everything just became as one. Sometimes, I would even lose myself so much in the music, that when listening back to recordings, I suddenly begin to play things and interact in a way that I never felt was possible! I am a big fan of genius guitarist, Allan Holdsworth's music and I can feel the intensity of being "in the zone" in all his music. His whole band just let themselves go. The interaction between drummer, Gary Husband and Allan is total oneness - their chemistry is astounding! While working as a drummer, I was amazed at the amount of musicians I met who practiced Aikido too!

There is this same connection in Aikido. It's like centering yourself and being at one with your Ki. It's something you can't force - it just evolves naturally. I have recently begun training in Aikido again after a long period of illness, and now I'm searching for "inner peace" and a sense on oneness. Ultimately, I believe it is possible to find enlightenment through Aikido. That is my quest. I've given up drumming now to focus entirely on this search.

I know it may sound far-fetched and idealistic, but Aikido has always felt right for me, and I feel drawn into it. I also believe that by studying this Art for these reasons, rather than for self-defence, will be more rewarding and make you grow inside.

Take care,
Aikidoiain. :)

09-10-2004, 01:09 PM
Wow, I cant belive that there has been this many responses to this post! I think that its pretty interesting that there are so many people with this connection. Small world...... Iain, I totaly belive that Aikido can and is a vehical for enlightenment. Everyone has to find there own way. It may be one of them.

Anita Crowhurst
09-10-2004, 02:28 PM
I took up the clarinet after listening to an amazing jazz jam session, & thinking, "Wow, I wanna do that!" However, after playing for about a year now, I was beginning to wonder if I'd really be able to do it.
Been doing aikido for a little bit now. You never know it might just help the jazz flow...

jacob wood
09-10-2004, 10:21 PM
i know exactly what Iian was talking about i play the guitar and one time while palying with my band we just let go and went off on a tangent for like 10 minutes it was so much fun. All of a sudden i could just flow with the chords being played and switching through the modes. Unfortunatley we didn't record it and there is no way to duplicate it, it just sprung out of my fingers but it felt like we were completley free. Ive only been taking aikido for 2 months but ive noticed being more relaxed especially my wrists while playing the piano. (im not good enough at the piano to improvise yet its a lot harder!)

09-11-2004, 04:54 AM
Hi Jacob,

I've always been into jazz and in particular, improvisation. Anyone can improvise in music irrespective of playing ability. It's simply a case of someone starts playing something, another joins in and the process evolves. No one knows where they're going, but that's not the point - it's the journey to that place that's important. On occasions when everyone merges as one, that's called being "in the zone". It also teaches you to listen to others and learn how to interact. Some surprising music can be produced through improvisation.

This also applies to Aikido practice. Just play around with your partner as you spar - without consciously thinking about techniques - and you may discover some interesting things can be achieved. Ultimately - like music - Aikido should flow effortlessly with little or no conscious thought. Mind and body as one.


Jill N
09-11-2004, 06:16 AM
Hi all:
This is a fun thread. I know a great aikido instructor who is a professional Jazz musician as well. He did a seminar for us a couple years ago: Steve Wolf. He is an instructor at Northern Virginia Ki Aikido. Here is his group's website:
Check it out. I love his CD. Great guy- good solid and fluid aikido too and a great instructor..
e ya later

09-11-2004, 09:04 AM
To all,

I should at this point mention that in drumming, the late, great Buddy Rich is the drumming equivalent of Morihei Ueshiba - and, Buddy was a Karate man too! Everyone should check out Buddy's videos. I saw him perform twice, and actually met the great man. What a genius!

Buddy could play things on the kit, that even today leave virtuoso players mesmerized!

So many links between jazz and "Zen".


Michael Young
09-11-2004, 12:28 PM
Man I dig this thread! It is great to see that there are some serious professional Jazz musicians taking and teaching Aikido. I'd heard of Jarman before, but only related to Jazz, I had no idea he was a high ranked Aikidoka. I think I'm going to be making a trip to NYC myself in the near future. This thread is really getting me inspired to get more serious about the piano too, I would really love to get to the same point in playing and creating music as I'm striving for in Aikido....thanks for the inspiration everyone.


09-13-2004, 11:28 AM
Hey Jill, so you trained with Wolfe Sensei? I trained at VKS for about 17 months and me and Wolfe Sensei became good friends. We still get together sometimes on the mat. I turned him on to Nora Jones.
True story- Elvin Jones is resonsible for me doing aikido today. After hearing him I decided to focus on martial arts. Seriously.

09-15-2004, 03:18 PM
Buddy was into martial arts? Thats cool... Really cool... Hes the drummer that got me into Jazz to begin with. Have any drummers out there heard of Terry Bozio? He used to play drums for Frank Zappa. Freakin amazing......

Jill N
09-16-2004, 09:43 AM
Hey Jill, so you trained with Wolfe Sensei? I trained at VKS for about 17 months and me and Wolfe Sensei became good friends. We still get together sometimes on the mat. I turned him on to Nora Jones.
True story- Elvin Jones is resonsible for me doing aikido today. After hearing him I decided to focus on martial arts. Seriously.

Hi Asim:
I'm not familiar with Nora Jones. What's the story behind that?

Say "Hi" to Steve for me.
e ya later

09-16-2004, 12:22 PM
Nora Jones is more folk, jazz, and country influenced. http://www.norahjones.com/
Her dad is Ravi Shankar. She is a throwback to the torch singers and pianists.

09-22-2004, 02:01 PM
I used to listen to Punk Rock for inspiration, then moved on to some cool jazz (Brubeck etal).
I finally found my true music love which is Fusion. Mahavishnu Orchestra, Jeff Beck, Weather Report, Niacin to name just a few. Manu Katche, Dennis Chambers, Omar Hakim, Billy Cobham, the list goes on for inspiration.

It's funny that the longer I did aikido, my music tastes changed. I never really thought of it until this thread. My playing style changed from aggressive to somewhat laid back and relaxed (like Joe Morrello).

09-26-2004, 05:43 AM
To Matthew,

Yes Terry Bozzio's great. Check out an album he did with David Torn and Mick Karn, called "POLYTOWN" - there's great drumming on that.

I also suggest you listen to Vinnie Colaiuta and Dave Weckl - both great drummers, but the list is endless. Also, the drummer with Pat Metheny's new group, Antonio Sanchez. He can solo while keeping a cowbell pattern going with his left foot!..and jumping to and from his hi-hat and double-kick pedal!! You should buy Pat's "Speaking of Now" DVD to see this guy (and band) - they're incredible!

Best wishes,
Iain. :ki: :)

10-13-2004, 10:20 AM
hi all. heh. I don't know if one of them helps another but here is a jazz bassist aikidoka for you. We should make an intercontinental song with channel recording. :)

10-29-2004, 07:55 AM
Although I gave up drumming "professionally", I still feel an over-powering need to play again. Some day I hope to meet like-minded individuals who are into free form improvisation. When I did this in the past, it was way more inspiring than any gig I ever played.

I would love to meet just a few such players - go into a rehearsal room; say nothing, and just start playing. Afterall, music is the International and Spiritual language. Unfortunately, playing my drums at home is a no no! The whole street would go crazy! Besides, I wouldn't have the room for my kit. But some day.....

Playing a musical instrument is akin to letting go and perhaps even touching on transcendence. I used to play drums a lot, on my own in a rehearsal room - and just lose myself. I often wonder if this is what "enlightenment" is like.

I miss playing so much. I love jazz, but many other styles too, and recently I bought the new DVD "RUSH in Rio". Neil Peart was one of my early influences in my teens - and boy, I still love his playing with RUSH.

Iain. :ki: :)

10-29-2004, 08:15 AM
I used to play blues on my guitar, but I have not been into that for a little while now. Every once and a while I fire up the tube amp and play soem though.

Now I am mostly into flamenco. I find I really love flamenco, because of the way it opens up the hand and mostly my mind. Flamenco has lots of improvisations, just like blues.

Also I found that in my aikido there is 2 other students who are into playing flamenco, this is surprising as very few people here play flamenco.

Side note, there is one problem. My nails on my right hand are a tiny bit longer then they should be, however I have been carefull. I also have to file them everyday so they don't get longer then they have to be.

garry cantrell
11-02-2004, 01:02 PM
i play bass in a texas blues n boogie band called blue collar crime. groovin'on stage and groovin on the mat are pretty much the same (even the same facial expressions at times). check out www.bluecollarcrime.com