Friday, January 23, 2015

Jazz and Culture Outline

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy, Denver Seminary,,
Christianity, Culture, and Jazz
There's a way of playing safe, there's a way of using tricks and there's the way I like to play, which is dangerously, where you’re going to take a chance on making mistakes in order to create something you haven't created beforeDave Brubeck, jazz pianist

I.                  Christianity and Culture

A.    Case study: jazz and Lutheran Pastor Smith

1.      Jazz and worldliness

2.      Abstention from jazz

3.      Restoration to jazz

B.    Creation mandate (Genesis 1:26-28; Psalm 8)

C.    The fall (Genesis 3; Romans 3)

D.   Christians in culture

1.      Reject and condemn; identify the fall (1 John 2:15-17)

2.      Affirm, conserve; recognize common grace (Jeremiah, Philippians 4:8)

3.      Redeem, transform; extend the kingdom of God (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8)

II.              What is Jazz That We should be Mindful of it?

A.    It is no longer a “jazz age”

B.    Not “smooth jazz”

C.    Origins: Africa, slave songs, New Orleans

Uniquely American art form

D.   Originators: Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton

E.    Nature of jazz

1.      Swing: “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing,” Duke Ellington

2.      Syncopation: the offbeat as the right beat

3.      Improvisation: “Chops” developed through “time in the woodshead”

4.      Collaboration: “big ears”

5.      Mastering tradition: “standards”

6.      Virtuosos: Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Pat Martino

7.      Jazz culture in Denver

1.      Jazz studies at Metro State, directed by Ron Miles, a trumpeter and Christian

2.      Dazzle Jazz: Jazz seven days a week and national acts about 3-4 times a month

F.      Receiving jazz for what it is.

1.      See C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism on “receiving,” not “using”

2.      Behold: John Coltrane, “Alabama”

III.          How Jazz Can Shape Christian Witness

A.    “Time in the woodshed” means developing your chops

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.—2 Timothy 2:15

B.    Improvisation

C.     “Call and response”—dialogue

Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord—Acts 19:8-10

D.   Syncopation: “the sound of surprise” (Whitney Balliet)

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly—Luke 19:1-6; see verses 7-10 also.

IV.           Jazz as Inspiration

A.    Learn to enjoy it (1 Timothy 6:17)

B.    Learn from its virtues (Philippians 4:8)

1.      Ken Burns, Jazz. Book and 10-art film series. See also the many CDs called, Ken Burns Jazz collection, which features artist such as Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, and many others.
2.      Ted Gioia, The Jazz Standards.
3.      Douglas Groothuis, “How Jazz Can Shape Apologetics,” Defend Magazine:
4.      Douglas Groothuis, “The Virtues of Jazz,” All About Jazz:
5.      Douglas Groothuis, “How Teachers Can Swing in the Classroom” All About Jazz,
6.      Robert Gelinas, Finding the Grove: Composing a Jazz-Shaped Faith.
7.      Kevin Whitehead, Why Jazz? A Concise Introduction.

Drum Mastery by Hamid Drake

Hamid Drake is a master drummer. Observe and listen to this drum solo. Consider this dynamic range, desterity, nuances, technique, and change of moods. He used the sticks, brushes, and mallots in ways I have never seen before. Enjoy and be thankful.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Jazz Pedagogy

The prestigious web page, All About Jazz, has published my essay, "Jazz Pedagogy."

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Virtues of Jazz

Jazz Weekly just posted my essay, "The Virtues of Jazz," which gives a unique approach to jazz and ethics. I hope you will read it and respond.

Monday, May 19, 2014

On Jazz Drumming--and Life

There is a fine, but bright, line between
sophisticated syncopation (loving the beat)
and losing the beat.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Two Virtues of Jazz

The distinctive virtues of jazz can be transposed from music into other spheres of life, other disciplines that call for excellence. Listening and performing jazz music is a gift, but the very nature of jazz can teach how to live better lives. Consider these virtues:

First, jazz requires a serious knowledge of the history of the music (the standards and the virtuosi) as well as the structure of various forms of jazz, such as swing, be-bop, modal, and more. One cannot play good jazz on the cheap and fool anyone who knows the genre, its roots, and its fruits. Phonies need not apply. The masters exhibit a focus on aesthetic value that is transferable to other matters. Just as John Coltrane practiced incessantly and explored the inner and outer reaches of jazz, a writer may seek excellence through the knowledge of literature, style, grammar, vocabulary, and more.

Second, this centered concentration on one thing (which is a very big thing) allows musicians to find their own voice, their unique style of playing and composing, whether on drums, piano, saxophone, trumpet, organ, vibes, or even harp and tuba. Finding a voice transcends both mere novelty and robotic and slavish imitation. Pat Metheny, who exudes a distinctive sound if anyone does, said that he was much influenced by Wes Montgomery--so much so that he could play Montgomery solos note for note. This is no easy thing for anyone! But Metheny added that this is not the point of jazz. One finds a voice by listening to and learning from others, but the music (if jazz) needs to find a singular expression in the individual player.

The need for finding one's own voice is not limited to jazz or even to artistic performances in general. Since each person is a unique incarnation of objective value and potential, every person can draw on the gifts of the world to shape a style that fits one's personality and which resonates with the higher harmonies of existence. A true voice cannot be contrived; it, rather, emerges through sustained effort and time. This emergence cannot be charted or predicted. Serendipity strikes where it will, but it cannot strike those unwilling to risk failure for the sake of excellence.

I hope to continue this theme in the days to come.