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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Going to the Shed

In my life as a musician, which I suppose was at least 100 years ago, I had to “shed” a lot.  Shedding (more so for jazz musicians than our classical counterparts) is a term that means practicing.  Jazz is, in my opinion, a pretty hip music, hence the hip terminology to describe an otherwise bland thing like practicing.  I’ve started playing again- just a bit here and there.  With the playing will definitely come some shedding… if I don’t then I won’t sound that good!

How, you may ask, does this have anything to do with the Christian life?  I’m glad you asked.  I… well, I’ll just go ahead and say it.  I am NOT perfect. Shocking, I know. So, even though I am a follower of Jesus Christ I still mess up sometimes.  Sometimes is a broad term.  Maybe to narrow it down, I could say I mess up anywhere from daily on down to every 5 minutes!  In our lives we will have to face the obvious fact that we are human beings and that we do still sin.  I think this idea of getting into a practice routine, “shedding”, working out the kinks in our lives is what Jesus was trying to say.  In Luke 9:23 we read, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross daily, and follow me.” (NLT)

This whole concept of intentionally taking up/shouldering our cross, making a concerted effort to deny ourselves and push our desires back while pushing Christ’s to the forefront is tough.  But it is necessary.  If, like I have done for a few years now, I were to lay off the trumpet then I’d sound like… well, like it had been several years since I’d really played my horn!  What about in our lives as followers of Christ?  If it appears that it’s been a while since we’ve done anything that resembles a Christ-led life, maybe we need to “shed” a little.

Until next time!

Renaissance Man

I have to admit something.  I actually spelled ‘renaissance’ without the aid of spell check, a dictionary, or the help of any art/ music professors.  The title of the post is actually an inside joke of sorts.  It refers to what the athletic director of Morehead High School said about me in my last year of teaching.  He was giving introductions to all of the coaching staff, and when he got to me, the band directing youth pastor turned rookie assistant cross country coach it seemed appropriate.

In all honesty, I’ve always liked the idea of being skilled at many things.  I remember in college as a trumpet player the idea of focusing only on one aspect of the instrument never appealed to me.  I wanted to do equally well on the classical side of the horn as well as the jazz side.  Of course, this is highly unlikely unless your last name happens to be Marsalis.  But it was a goal.  In my trumpeting career (if that’s what one can call it) I did do a variety of things.  I got the chance to play with a civic orchestra for part of their season, for example.  Big whoop, you might say.  I’d rather say that I got to play Dvorak 9, Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait”, Beethoven 5, and a few other really neat things.  It was the time when my piccolo paid for itself by the plethora of “Messiah” side performances I got!  Swing bands, brass quintets, jam sessions (including one blues jam where I was the weird trumpet guy), a demo that I made with some folks, all kinds of crazy gigs.  I guess I did a few interesting things as a musician.

I think that in doing this blog, in seminary, in my interests in things like running, and in a new career and new family life this renaissance man mentality has pushed through.  Of course, I’m still holding firm to my quasi- Lenten vow, but I feel that if I were to look at the different categories of people I follow on Twitter it would run quite a large gambit.  Jazz/ jazz musicians, writing topics, a couple of celebs, friends, running things, youth ministers/ ministry, Christian “celebs”, Christian bands, and more.  I don’t know, but I think sometimes that focusing too narrowly puts on blinders.  There’s a big world out there.  If we are obedient to Jesus’ Great Commission we can allow our lives (even something as trivial as a blog) to reach more people than in one narrow aspect.  I hope that my Renaissancyness will be able to do that.

Until next week!