Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy, Denver Seminary, DougGroothuis@gmail.com, DouglasGroothuis.com
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 before— Dave 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
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: http://www.defendmag.com/jazz-can-shape-apologetics
4. Douglas Groothuis, “The Virtues of Jazz,” All About Jazz: http://www.allaboutjazz.com/the-virtues-of-jazz-john-coltrane-by-douglas-groothuis.php#.VGL4XPl4p4c
5. Douglas Groothuis, “How Teachers Can Swing in the Classroom” All About Jazz, http://www.allaboutjazz.com/jazz-pedagogy-by-douglas-groothuis.php#.VGL5Zfl4p4c
6. Robert Gelinas, Finding the Grove: Composing a Jazz-Shaped Faith.
7. Kevin Whitehead, Why Jazz? A Concise Introduction.