Spiritual Implications of Early John Coltrane

Here’s a surprising revelation for you- life is like a seminary class (in addition to being like a box of chocolates.) And since most of the time I have jazz running through my brain, a jazz seminary class is my life. Can you dig? I’ll let you in on another revelation- whereas some folks can listen to Christian radio all the time, I cannot. I love it…but my brain is not wired to listening to one genre constantly. Being a jazzer, I need jazz!

So, I was listening to one of my favorite jazz CD’s last week. Miles’ “Working with the Miles Davis Quintet” used to be in heavy rotation. In the days of cassette tapes I almost wore it out…I did wear out Marsalis Standard Time vol. 1 by Wynton (mostly listening/re-listening to Autumn Leaves). “Working with the MDQ” is a little oddity from 1956. It was recorded along with three other albums in a marathon recording session in order to fulfill contract obligations (namely so that Miles could get out of it!) Being in 1956 didn’t mean that the playing of the tenor sax player John Coltrane’s playing was at his absolute earliest, but it was fairly early on in his career.

For the uninitiated, Coltrane was, in short, a legend. Yet, what struck me as odd was that my listening today revealed a different aspect of his playing- he was reaching…sort of searching for what he wanted at times. He certainly wasn’t playing anything remotely bad, mind you.  If you want to hear “bad” jazz playing, then I have several examples of my own playing that would fulfill that.  Coltrane, not so much.  What I’m saying is that knowing the full arc of his career, I could hear that there were things in his brain that he wanted to reach for.

And then the spiritual application of his early-ish playing hit me: we should be constantly reaching, searching, and growing in our relationships with Christ!  I preached a sermon on this not too long ago, and in it I quoted Paul and Peter as they mention things like moving from an infancy in our faith to full maturity.  1 Corinthian 3:1-3 allude to this as does 1 Peter 2:2.  We have to start off somewhere.  We don’t just become believers and jump into teaching a Sunday School class… but we also have to grow and work out our faith.

Just some jazz theology thoughts for you.

Until next time!


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