“I like to think of music as a lubricant that will sometimes help the human heart to prepare and focus on an encounter with the living God,” says Jazz artist, producer and songwriter Tim Coffman. He was responding to my question about the role music plays in worship services. He further explains, “Music can set a mood prior to the service and is a good tool for engaging the congregation and setting direction for the worship service.”
It seems that in some sectors of our country Jazz services are becoming trendy. Coffman offered these insights, “In my mind the style of the music is not nearly as important as the only thing that is important and that is (asking) whether the Holy Spirit is there. The reason I say that is because you could be banging on chairs and praising God and it works if the Holy Spirit is there. If He is not working in the midst of that group of people at that time it doesn’t really matter what the style of music is. I know there is a push on Jazz but Jazz alone will not get you to God. It will not significantly make your worship experience any better. Only the Holy Spirit and the surrender to Him will really make the experience a valid one.”
Coffman continues, “I don’t put as much credence in style of music as I do the soul of music. Soul to me means when your heart is connected to your voice. What is inside of you is flowing through your instrument.”
To fully appreciate the impact of Coffman’s statements we need to digress for a moment. His 2005 mainstream Jazz CD Nonstop To Paris has almost owned the European Jazz charts during the past year. He has been around the music scene since the early sixties and has worked as either a producer, concert promoter, booking agent or artist with some of the biggest names in both mainstream and Christian music.
His 2003 release Beach and Guitar birthed an entirely new genre of music when he married a combination of retro and new surf music to the sound of a Hawaiian steel guitar. His CD also bore traces of Spy and Funk tunes. The album was followed by Music From Beach Boulevard in 2005.
So why maintain an interest in worship music Tim? To answer that question he takes me on a historical trek. He worked with several Christian artists and bands during the eighties. In addition he was one of the founders behind the Christian Music Association and published Prime Focus a Christian magazine in the San Diego and Orange County areas of California. He says, “After helping do that for seven years I realized that Christian music wasn’t really accomplishing the goals that I felt it needed to accomplish. There were a lot of really good shows but it was really moving towards a secular posture. I am not even going to be critical of that, all I am simply saying is it was not the direction that I wanted to go.”
“About that time I met a guy named Kent Henry in the late eighties and early nineties. He was a well known worship leader from the Midwest. I went to one of his nights of worship. I had always been interested in worship music where there is a tremendous amount of outpouring and everybody in the congregation is singing. That is quite a different experience than a band up on stage. (A band) is doing all the work for you and you are just sitting there as a person in the audience being entertained. That is a great experience as well but when you are in a worship experience everybody is involved. I was at this thing with Kent Henry and there were about 2,000 people in attendance. They were all singing and all worshipping. I thought to myself, this is what’s real. This is it right here. I really began to pursue that whole idea of worship music. I am hoping to complete another Worship Remixes album this coming year (2006).”
The interest in worship music has influenced at least one of his children. Daughter Julie who first appeared on the 2003 Worship Remixes CD will also contribute to the tracks on the upcoming album. Julie Coffman has an outstanding voice and spent several years touring as part of a worship band.
I queried him about the financial viability of such a project today. Without hesitation he responded, “I don’t look at it as being financially viable. It may not be financially viable. That is not my criteria. My criterion is it must be done.” Tim maybe you said that because it is 6:30 in the morning. Perhaps you would like another crack at that question. Yet this highly regarded music guru plunges into the deep end with another statement, “It is something that I have the resources to do. I will put my own personal resources into it if need be in order to do it.”
“The criteria are to find those people that I consider to be up and coming artists that are just getting into the flow. They are speaking to their generation of 18-25 year olds. (It is about) giving them a voice.” He says he hopes to provide a boost to the careers of these artists. The project is planned for 2006. Coffman also has some thoughts on where he would like to see the music industry go in the next few years. “It should go towards more experimentation. It should go towards more honesty. It’s funny we have all these new tools as musicians. You really don’t have to use your imagination as much as you used to. It is not allowing us to get deep creativity. We have a lot of very shallow creativity but not real deep things. If you go back into the fifties, forties, thirties and twenties you find a lot of very deep composition. When you look at the chord changes and melodies it is extremely deep and extremely hard. It is hard to play for an average musician. I think we need to go back and get deeper into our songwriting, deeper in our production and still (retain) the same spontaneity.”
If you like Jazz or quality instrumental music you may want to give a listen to Beach and Guitar which features the slick guitar work of Paul Johnson who first appeared in 1961 with his band the Belairs and later in 1963 with the Surfaris better known for their chart stopping song “Wipeout”. Blending Johnson’s grooves with Greg Sardinha’s work on the Hawaiian steel guitar creates some awesome tunes and highlights Coffman’s genius as a producer.
The mellower Music From Beach Boulevard allows you to tilt back your head, close your eyes, taste the salt in the air and feel the warm sand between your toes.
Copyright © 2006 Joe Montague, exclusive rights reserved. This material may not be redistributed without prior written permission from Joe Montague. Joe Montague is an internationally published freelance journalist / photographer.