The Jazz Theologian

"Kenny G is an acoustic musician who plays the soprano saxophone, the instrument identified with Sidney Bechet and John Coltrane, two of the icons of jazz history." (Jazz 101, John Szwed, p21)

I don’t think that Kenny G is a jazz musician for many of the reasons cited by all of you in the previous post. One critic adds this thought to our discussion, "Though he claims not to be a jazz musician, Kenny G has always been regarded with contempt by jazz aficionados for his supposedly pedestrian, soulless playing." (Wikipedia)

"Soulless." I don’t know whether or not Mr. G is missing soul, I don’t know him, but I do know that many churches are. Have you ever experienced a soulless church? Preacher? Worship leader? Have you ever heard someone saying all the right things about God and yet it was missing an intangable…it was missing soul. How do we keep the soul in our conversations about God? Where does soul come from?

Kenny G. He’s played with Whitney Houston, Natalie Cole, Aretha and Grover Washington Jr. He holds the world record for the longest note ever played on a saxaphone…over 45 minutes! But is Kenny G jazz, classical or something else? Why or why not? Make your case.

"Emily, a young woman in Thornton Wilder’s play "Our Town"…dies in child birth, but is granted a unique experience: the Stage manager allows her to return from death and live one more day of her life with her family. Although Emily has high hopes for that one day, she is disappointed. Just before she returns to her place in the cemetary, she reveals her frustration to the Stage Manager.

Emily says: We don’t have time to look at one another. (She breaks down, sobbing.) I didn’t realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed…Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it–every, every minute?
Stage Manager: No…The saints and poets, maybe–they do some.
(from Space for God, Don Postema, p14)
I would add Jazz Theologians to Wilder’s list of those who live life for each moment. JT is all about about the convergence God in the now–Theomoments.
What about Jesus the master Jazz Theologian? Can you think of times when he lived life for the moment? In the moment? Can you think of times when Jesus took what was known about God, then improvised…producing a fresh experience of God?

To talk about jazz is to talk about race and race relations in America. Jazz initially arose out of the pain of America’s original sin of slavery. Inspite of its’ emergence from such conditions, it proved to be convergent. Even as the KKK was on the rise and lynchings were commonplace, blacks and whites would find themselves in the same rooms because of jazz.

There was a problem, the big band jazz being performed by African-American’s was more about how jazz could be more classical than European classical music. In short, jazz emerged a second time in 1959 (more on this in later postings), breaking away from the constraints of classical methods, into the art of a skilled set of musicians so in tune with each other that they can play the same song night after night while never sounding the same. Jazz became all about the moment when musical standards, the audience and musicians converge into something that has never existed before. And even today, one can go to a jazz club and experience this emergence and convergence of sounds, styles, and people.

Jazz theology is richly soaked with race as well. It understands that classical theology is good and needed but also recognizes that when one takes a theology textbook off the shelf it almost always has a European bent. Once a jazz theologian has conformed to classical theology, the yearning to improvise becomes unbearable and an emergence takes place…the result is not a rejection of the old but a convergence of moments–What I’m calling Theomoments.

What about your theology? From whom does it come? Why is race not discussed along with our theology? Have you ever noticed that the people who tell you about God all look the same? Are you ready for an emergence? For a convergence?