The Jazz Theologian

The Jazz Theologian

What’s a jazz theologian?

What’s a jazz theologian?  Let’s divide and conquer.

What is jazz?

Most people think of jazz as music, I think that it is more than music.  Music happens to be the realm in which most of us recognize it but I think that Ralph Ellison was correct when he said that all of American life is "jazz-shaped."  Jazz is more than music.  It is a way of thinking and a way of viewing the world.  It is about freedom within community.  It is a culture, that is, a set of values and norms by which we can experience life in general and faith in particular.  It is about how we know things.  Jazz knowing is a knowledge born out of experience.  It is a knowledge based upon taking proposition and living it.  It becomes truth when it is lived.  Jazz is indigenous to the United States of America. 

What is theology?

The study of God.  The interaction with what God has stooped to reveal to His creation.  Often times codified in books and systems.  Theology is the truth we know about God. 

So what is a jazz theologian?

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posted February 23, 2007 at 5:49 pm

my fave definition of theology is faith thinking…
I’m still working on finding a fave definition for jazz…

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John Alan Turner

posted February 27, 2007 at 9:16 am

I would think that jazz theology would also need to deal with healthy individuation. A jazz musician must be an expert in their craft, taking time to practice alone so that they can move into a context of community. A jazz musician knows when to step into the spotlight and solo. The great ones do this without ego and can also lay back in support of the others around them.
I’m thinking now of the great recordings of Andre Previn, Ray Brown and Joe Pass — or the first Miles Davis Quintet (50s — with Cannonball and Coltrane).
A jazz theologian understands the importance of being an individual and not apologizing for that but also knowing how to fit into and enhance the symbiosis of community.
There’s also something about leadership (no one doubted that Miles was in charge of his groups) — but that leadership being fluid (he didn’t chart out all the solos for his musicians).
Rambling. Rambling. Rambling.

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posted February 28, 2007 at 10:47 pm

Hey, I found out how to comment, so I’ll pose a question or two of personal interest……. I liked your unpacking of jazz as freedom within community. It is a culture, that is, a set of values and norms by which we can experience life in general and faith in particular. Can you reflect on: What must a faith based culture embrace as a set of values or beliefs in order to be considered a group that plays “good” jazz. What is the baseline? Would you state it as the solos of the reformation, or more in terms on community norms such as the law of love?

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posted March 1, 2007 at 12:06 pm

Hello my friend, glad you figured it out.
This is a question that I plan on doing some future posts on but the essence is this: Classical faith is concerned with a worldview, jazz faith is a way of viewing the world.
The huge contribution of classical faith is orthodoxy, however you define it…the reformation “solas” or the apostles creed–the essentials of knowing Jesus.
Jazz faith assumes the essentials in the same way that a jazz ensemble assumes you can play an instrument.

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