The Jazz Theologian

The Jazz Theologian

Jazz–More than Music (p2)

Red, White and Blues

On Independence Day I bought some slow gin and celebrated with Ralph Ellison.

In Ralph Ellison’s, "The Invisible Man," the narrator was fond of eating a special desert while listening to Louis Armstrong sing, "What Did I Do to Be so Black and Blue."  Ellison writes…

"Sometimes now I listen to Louis while I have my favorite dessert of vanilla ice cream and sloe gin.  I pour the red liquid over the white mound, watching it glisten and the vapor rising as Louis bends that military instrument into a beam of lyrical sound."

Red_white_and_blue750x600_1 That is how Ellison saw America–red, white and blues–the red of the sloe gin, the white of the ice cream and Armstrong singing the blues.


Red, white and blues–the native soil of this thing we call jazz.

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posted July 8, 2006 at 7:38 am

The 4th of July is always a bitter-sweet holiday for me. What I love about it really has nothing to do with the holiday itself. Its usually an opportunity to see family and a good excuse to cook-out.
Even though I know the first casuality of the Revolutionary War was a a runaway slave by the name of Crispus Attucks (how ironic is that?), in the back of my mind I know that the vast majority of my ancestors were far from independent.

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Pete Gall

posted July 9, 2006 at 6:35 pm

I ended up at Cooper’s – the bar near Denver International Airport where I’m pretty sure no one’s ever discussed Ellison – waiting for a flight on the afternoon of the 4th.
Rednecks drunk in the afternoon, clumped together at the end of the bar. The bartender/waitress dressed like a Hooter’s girl, bare midriff striated with stretch marks from pregnancies – her kids home alone I assumed. Loud metal music thumping. Waffle fries with ketchup. Sticky wooden tabletops.
We may celebrate national independence, but the vast majority of us are hardly free – and the vast majority of that vast majority doesn’t even know where to begin to unravel the pain it feels.
Jazz – and discussions as hosted here lifting from the experience of jazz – is a great place for the eyes to close a bit, the head to nod, the toes to tap…and maybe we can feel the ache for better together.

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posted July 11, 2006 at 12:10 am

bitter sweet–that’s exactly what the sloe gin and ice cream tastes like.
welcome back and I’m sorry for not being available…
the ache is real, but not void of hope.

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John Frye

posted July 11, 2006 at 6:39 pm

Thanks for this inviting version of subversive patriotism.

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