Jazz musicians link creativity to community

As part of the Lacroute Art Series, three jazz artists visited Linfield to share their thoughts about how creative expression can build community April 22 in the Delkin Recital Hall. After the interactive discussion, they played an improvisation set.

“I want to talk about jazz as revolution,” said Tim DuRoche, a musician, artist, writer and activist. “Jazz can be all things to all people. It is all around us.”

DuRoche started the audience out with a basic description of jazz, its most famous players and the influences they’ve had on each other and the country.

He talked about the evolution of jazz and the public’s reception over time. People were beginning to see how this music represented the country we were becoming, and it continues to do so. There are many ways to examine the problems a community may face.

“When we look at conflict in community, it is so often about the way things have been and the way things could be. It’s also about individual versus the community, but that’s a myth,” he said. “The west was won by communities and people working together. Jazz allows us to look at the world this way.”

DuRoche talked about jazz as a metaphor with the power to change who we are, how we belong and how we move forward as a community.

“Think about what jazz does. It unites our voices and energies. It unites us. It tells a story. It allows multiple perspectives and allows us to be part of something. In many ways, it is democracy in action,” he said. “Jazz is a process of discovery. It asks questions. It is participative and inclusionary. All these things we really want to have happen as a community.”

Along with DuRoche on drums, Portland State University professor Darrell Grant played the piano. Jon Shaw, a native Portland musician, accompanied the two on the upright bass. The combo illustrated values of community by playing various improvised songs together.

The trio discussed the idea that you can bring together different personalities to accomplish anything. It’s about having shared values and common purpose.

“Jazz brings the element of freedom, composition and individual agency,” Grant said. “The performer gets to contribute to the making of the piece as a whole. For a jazz musician, it’s a constant search for something new.”

After their performance, DuRoche, Grant and Shaw all shared their thought processes as they played uncharted music they’d never seen before. DuRoche discussed harmonies, cadences and chords, painting a picture of the way that people work together using improvisation.

“Jazz is collaborative, collective leadership, in the same way that leadership should be collaborative and flexible,” DuRoche said. “While in the midst of improvisation, you must explore the outer limits to take you further into the next level. Musicians must listen deeply to each other in order to function.”

DuRoche encouraged everyone to incorporate music or creative expression into every group effort, whether it is a company or volunteer organization.

“Jazz gives us this space where questions can be asked and something new can emerge,” he said. “The questions that jazz asks are comparable to those you ask when living in a community. How much risk are you willing to take? How much do you plan to participate? How invested are you in the wellbeing of the whole?”

Afterward, audience members got to speak with the musicians at a social with refreshments provided by the music department.


Kelsey Sutton/Managing editor

Kelsey Sutton can be reached at linfieldreviewmanaging@gmail.com