Journalist David Hadju tells of a time when jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis was playing in one of New York City's small, basement clubs. Part way through the first set he stepped to the front of the tiny stage and started to play a solo. The tune was a 1930s ballad called "I don't stand a Ghost of a Chance with You." It is a very melancholy melody, and it quickly drew in the audience, who hung on every note. When Marsalis got to the end of the song he slowed down the tempo, stretching out every final not: "I . . . don't . . stand . . . a . . . ghost . . . of . . . a . . . chance . . ." When suddenly out of nowhere, a cell phone went off.
It was a rather ditzy little tune, and the mood was broken. The crowd started to giggle, and the phone's owner ran off into the stairwell to answer the call. But then, magic happened. Up on stage, Marsalis started to mimic the cell phone melody on his trumpet. Then, in true jazz fashion, he began to improvise: he changed the key, he varied the tempo, he turned it into a tour de force. And then, with the deft touch of a consummate pro, he closed it all out playing the last two notes of the original tune: "with . . . you."
Marsalis was so gifted, so well trained, so experienced, so grounded in his art, that he was able to take a jingle and turn it into a masterpiece. he could have cursed out the thoughtless patron who'd forgotten to turn off his phone. He could have stormed out in disgust. He could have simply laughed it off. But instead he took a negative experience and turned it into an improvised gem.
Now there is a lesson for life!
PS: If you are in the area, join us this coming Sunday here at our 9:00 & 11:00 AM worship services as we celebrate MLK Jazz Sunday--honoring Dr. King and his legacy in words and music, featuring our own Blended Trio, Norm Libby, Elwood Smith and the Chancel Choir and our very special musical guests The Bill Harris Experience Band, a five piece jazz ensemble!