Yoko Miwa

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Jazz And Buddhism

Image via http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/archive/index.php/t-12161.html
Image via http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/archive/index.php/t-12161.html

Hi friends, it’s Jason Crane, the webmaster and blog writer here at YokoMiwa.com. I’m a Buddhist, and I was curious about whether there are many jazz musicians who are also Buddhists, or who’ve composed music related to Buddhism. I knew about Wayne Shorter, of course, because he’s been very open about his Buddhism for decades. But I wanted to see if anybody else was out there. Could we put a Buddhist band together? Let’s find out.

The Boddhisattva Band

Saxophone: Wayne Shorter. Wayne Shorter has been a Buddhist for many years. He’s a member of Soka Gakkai International, a large lay-Buddhist organization. One Buddhist-related piece by Wayne is this one, which he wrote for Burmese democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi:

Piano: Herbie Hancock. That’s right: longtime friends and bandmates Herbie and Wayne are both Nichiren Buddhists. Herbie said that hearing Buster Williams play a solo on the tune “Toys” one night was what led him to Buddhism. You can read the story here.

Bass: Buster Williams. Via the story related above by Herbie Hancock, I learned that Buster Williams is also a Buddhist. Here’s Buster and his quartet earlier this year at Dizzy’s in New York:

That gives us a pretty fabulous trio. I couldn’t find a drummer. If you know of someone, let me know in the comments.

Finally, a little side note. If we wanted to add in some vocal talent from outside the jazz world, we’ve got a pretty solid start with Leonard Cohen, Tina Turner, Ad-Rock, David Bowie and kd lang. Of course, several of them will have to reincarnate first.

8 comments

  1. David Mott recently retired from York University, in Toronto, where he taught and was chair of the music department. He has been a practicing Zen Buddhist for decades, he is a grand master of Uechiryu (Okinawan) karate, and he has written and played original jazz, with music available on cd. info@davidmottmusic.com

  2. U ask about drummers who r practicing Buddhiism? I can name several, but will say first Mike Clark who just might b perfect in the list u have started with Wayne and Herbie. Another I will mention is Eric Harland who not long ago released his cd “Vipassana”.

      1. You’re entirely welcome Yoko. There is one more I would like to add if you don’t mind. Drummer Alex Cline released earlier this year “Oceans Of Vows” on Cryptogramophone Records, a wonderfully majestic suite inspired by and dedicated to his teacher Thich Nhat Hanh. Alex and I had quite a conversation following the release of the cd, I will let you know when I’ve done a bit of editing and have it posted.

  3. Other notable musicians who practice Buddhism are:

    Edward Simon (Jazz Pianist and Composer)
    Néstor Torres (Jazz Flutist and Composer)
    Esperanza Spalding) Jazz Bassist, Singer and Composer)
    Patti Austin ( Legendary Vocalist in many styles)
    Howard Johnson (Singer and Composer)

    There are quite a few out there who are practitioners.

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