The music for Rivers of Life tells a story, and this is where the story comes alive. These tune descriptions are provided for your reading pleasure. For best results, read them while you listen to the recording.
1A Tree Firmly Planted – spontaneous improvisation – The project opens with a few, light tinkles of the keys that sound like early morning dew falling from the leaves of a beautiful apple tree. Soon the bass enters with a solid drone, sustained throughout the track. This drone represents the river. It is always there, providing a foundation for us to build on.
That drone is the Word of God!
When we “delight” in God’s word and walk in His will, we are like an apple tree that bears fruit at the right time. We are healthy, strong and prosperous.
“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
2 ‘Tis So Sweet to Trust In Jesus – Louisa Stead – William Kirkpatrick – Here is the background story for this hymn, taken from wikipidia: “According to the story: It was a beautiful sunny day. Louisa M. Stead, her husband, and her daughter Lily, decided to go for a picnic. They went picnicking on Long Island Sound. While having their picnic, the Steads heard a scream. It was from a young boy. Mr. Stead ran to the rescue. Louisa Stead and young Lily watched helplessly as Mr. Stead and the boy drowned. Their troubles were not over yet, however, and without her husband, Mrs. Stead became very poor and destitute.Yet God never left her. He provided for her always and she and her daughter made it through. Louisa learned to trust God, and thus the words to the song ‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus.’ Shortly after this incident, Louisa and her daughter Lily moved to South Africa where they became missionaries.”
3Abide With Me – Henry Francis Lyte – Here’s more from Wikipedida: “Lyte wrote the poem in 1847 and set it to music while he lay dying from tuberculosis; he survived only a further three weeks after its completion. The hymn is a prayer for God to remain present with the speaker throughout life, through trials, and through death. The opening line alludes to Luke 24:29, “Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent”, and the penultimate verse draws on text from 1 Corinthians 15:55, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?””
Luke 24:29, “Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent”
1 Corinthians 15:55, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?””
As Jesus went, the people pressed around him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”
4Love Touch – original – On his way to Jairus’ house to heal Jairus’ daughter, a woman touched Jesus’ garment at the fringe. Jesus immediately perceived that he had been touched and asked who had done it. The woman came forward, telling Jesus that it was her and that she had been healed.
What I find so interesting about this story was that Jesus stopped to speak with this woman. Jairus’ daughter was dying, Jesus was on an emergency call, so to speak, but He stopped to tell this woman “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”
Love Touch was the very first jazz composition I ever wrote. I wrote it sitting in a practice room in the music department at the University of Texas at El Paso. I was about twenty one when I wrote it and the tune was never performed until about fifteen years later. It was an honor to record it with my uncle.
5In Time My Friend – original – Patience is a virtue! Right? But sometimes waiting for the right time to do something is difficult to do. How many times in my life have I screwed up because I didn’t wait for God’s perfect timing? Fortunately, He has always taken my mistakes and turned them around, but certainly, there is no question that things would have been better if I had waited for His cue, His promptings. In Time My Friend is a happy song that contemplates the joy of waiting.
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”
6Above All – Paul Baloche and Lenny LeBlanc – arr. Eddie Lewis -I wrote this arrangement of Above All when I was the trumpet player and section leader at Quail Valley Church (now called The Freedom Center). We used it for offering music a few times, but I’ve done it more often as a jazz tune since I left Quail Valley.
7If Any Man Thirst – spontaneous improvisation – Rivers of living water! Jesus Christ invited us to quench out thirst in Him, and when we do so, when we accept Him as our Lord and Savior, and receive His Holy Spirit, that same river of living water now flows from Him, through us, to the people God places in our lives. That’s how I see the “rivers of living water” that Jesus was talking about. It describes a flow of love, from God, through Christ, through us, to the rest of the world.
“In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)”
“Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways. Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”
8The Old Rugged Cross – George Bennard – I don’t believe that genuine Christianity has ever been popular, not even in countries that claim to be Christian. And it’s ironic because most people think that when you do the right thing, then everyone is going to love you and everything is going to be just wonderful. In reality, doing the right thing will almost always upset people. I’ve seen it in my life, time and time again. So yes, there is pressure from the world to do things their way when you know that their way is not God’s way. The Old Rugged Cross is about sticking it out for the long haul. It’s about being the seed that fell in fertile ground.
9Clap Your Hands – original – I remember one time listening to a singer on TBN talk about how she used to sing the blues, but stopped. She said you can’t sing the blues if you have Christ in your life. But it’s different for us horn players. The blues isn’t lyrical poetry for us. It’s not about the words we are saying, but the melodies we create in that style.
Clap Your Hands is one of my original blues compositions, but it’s not a sad, heart-broken song.
There are reasons to praise God, every day and in every situation.
I recently explained to a good friend of mine how I can write such dissonant music (most of my classical compositions tend to be very dissonant). I told him that we are triune beings; body, soul and spirit. It is possible to have joy in our spirit and pain in our bodies at the same time. If our music is to truly express who we are, then it would be a lie, a musical deception, to compose music that pretends that everything in every aspect of our lives is hunky-dory. So I compose music that has happy, upbeat, energetic rhythms, uplifting melodies, but also various degrees of dissonance mixed in to keep the story honest.
The same is true for this blues tune. When you listen to it, you can hear that the overall feel is a happy one. But the the blues inflections give the song that touch of honesty that makes it real and keeps it honest.
O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph. For the Lord most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth. He shall subdue the people under us, and the nations under our feet. He shall choose our inheritance for us, the excellency of Jacob whom he loved. Selah.
God is gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet. Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding. God reigneth over the heathen: God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness. The princes of the people are gathered together, even the people of the God of Abraham: for the shields of the earth belong unto God: he is greatly exalted.
I will love thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies. The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid. The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me. In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.
10I Won’t Last a Day Without You – Paul Williams and Roger Nichols – My Uncle Geoff is not only a piano player. He is a retired band director. He plays just about every instrument. He is an ordained minister. AND…he sings….oh…and he whistles too.
This pop song, I Won’t Last a Day Without You, can easily be interpreted as a Psalm to God, our Heavenly Father. As Christians, we know that He is the source of our strength. His love manifests itself in our weaknesses and He turns them around and makes them strengths. We grow to rely on Him increasingly more each day. We make ourselves vulnerable to Him so that He can use us.
11Upbeat Retreat – John Goode – When an adult (especially a pro player) signs up for lessons with me, I usually don’t tell the public about it. First of all, my reputation as a teacher is established well enough that I don’t need to use them that way. Secondly, telling people that someone is coming to me for lessons can create doubt in the people who hire that trumpet player. So as a general rule, I keep it discrete.
The one exception is when the students themselves choose to open that up as an option. And some have. John Goode is one of them. John not only took trumpet lessons with me, but also jazz improvisation, and composition lessons as well.
Upbeat Retreat is a tune that John wrote as an assignment for his composition lessons. The reason I’m sharing this information with you is because it helps to explain the title of the song. John said that our lessons were something he looked forward to every week. Our time together was uplifting for him. He referred to our lessons as his “upbeat retreat”.
Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power. Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness. Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp. Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs. Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals. Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.
And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him:
12Eden Restored – spontaneous improvisation – There is a time coming, in the not so distant future, when the curse of Adam will come to a final end. In Revelations, Jesus said, “Let him that is athirst come.” It is an open invitation.
I’m not much of an evangelist. I am called to be a teacher and a musician (in that order). AND, I did not plan to use this page as a tool for evangelizing (if you know me, then you know I wouldn’t lie about that). Most of what I have written on this page was only formalized in these past few days of writing, long after the project was recorded. The only thing I did in advance was to pray that God would speak to me about a message He wants me to share through this recording project.
I thought that He had never answered me. There was never a single moment when I felt like He had spoken to me. But it turns out He was guiding my steps the entire time. I feel like He chose the songs we recorded, not me. When we got to the studio, I had other music with me, stuff we never even looked at. But the flow of the session determined that certain songs were recorded and others were not. I truly believe that was God’s answer to my prayers, because now that I’ve sat down to write this page describing each of the tracks, there is a real message here.
And now I do feel compelled to share Jesus’ invitation with you. Are you thirsty for the water from the Rivers of Life? If you yearn for a better life, a life where love triumphs over evil, then now is the time to invite Jesus into your heart.
How do you do that?
Romans 10:9 says “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”