Words from the Road: Sabbatical Update #6

A note from Jamie Howison: This is the sixth in a series of weekly updates regarding my unfolding sabbatical study leave. For background on my work during these two months, plus other updates visit the sabbatical news page.


f you happened to read my weekly update from last week, you’ll know that due to the snowstorms across the midwest I managed to get stuck in New York City for an extra two days… hardly the end of the world, in my books. After dealing with the minor challenge of finding somewhere to stay for those two nights, I just resumed my New York life. It gave me the chance to do a bit more work at the Union Seminary library and to pay a visit to the Museum of Modern Art (something I’d managed to let slip by in the midst of the month, and that I had been regretting not doing…).

It also meant that I could go to hear Jonathan Batiste and his group at a free event up at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. I’d have to say that this is one young guy that the Winnipeg Jazz Festival should book for a club date before he becomes too famous (and pricey…) for our budget. Hailing from New Orleans, Jonathan is offering up a riveting recapitulation of that city’s jazz tradition. He’s brilliantly talented, and at the same time really warm and engaging. Kudos to the Jazz Museum for getting behind this guy. In fact, kudos to the Jazz Museum for everything they’re doing to celebrate and promote the living tradition of jazz. I’m a fan.

So now I’m sitting in my cottage on the grounds of St John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota, with a very cold winter wind howling outside. This is about as different an emotional and spiritual zone from Manhattan as you’re likely to find, at least on this continent; not urban, not bustling, not brightly lit, not marked by an incredible contrast between the very rich and the very poor. Whereas last month it was a ten minute walk to the subway, where I’d catch my train to whatever jazz club I might be going to, now it is a ten minute walk around the little lake and up the hill to the monastery chapel, where I have been joining my voice in music and prayer with the monks a couple of times a day. Wonderful places to walk (though the past few days have been too cold to bother), a good bookstore in the university that adjoins the monastery, a great library, a museum with a display of pages from the St John’s Bible, and time and space for focused writing. It is just what I need after my very busy Manhattan month. And since my arrival late Thursday night, I’ve been sleeping incredibly soundly for eight or nine hours each night. That’s often been my experience in monastic and retreat settings; sleep becomes this great and settling gift.

My writing is progressing steadily, though I’m aware that this first draft will need serious edits and rewrites before I can even show it to an actual editor or proof-reader. I’ve read and researched so much over the past year that it always feels as if I’ve got more to add, more to fill in, and more to cover off. I suspect the chapter I just finished up today will end up losing five or six of its twenty pages in the rewrites. As for one of the other two chapters I’ve done, I might just dump one of them in its entirety, replacing it with about three paragraphs in my introduction. We’ll see.

I’m afraid I don’t have any really decent Collegeville photographs to share, though I’ll work at having a few for next week. For now, there’s just this one of my work space in my cottage, looking out the window toward some of the other cottages in this little complex.

One more thing from New York. I’m not looking to boast here (okay, maybe a little), but I did want to set out a list of all the live music I managed to hear over those weeks. And with exception of the shows at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, these were all club shows seating anywhere from 40 to 120 people. And being that I am a sensible Canadian and had lots of control over my time, I always arrived early enough to get a good seat.

  • George Coleman, with Harold Mabern at Smoke
  • The Bad Plus at the Village Vanguard
  • Terence Blanchard at The Jazz Standard
  • Donny McCaslin at Bar55
  • Ravi Coltrane at the City Winery
  • Patience Higgins at the Lenox Lounge
  • Tomasz Stanko at the Jazz Standard
  • Joe Lovano at the Village Vanguard
  • Ralph Laloma and Bop Juice at Small’s
  • Jean Michel Pilc with Billy Hart at Small’s
  • Keith Jarrett at Carnegie Hall
  • George Garzone at the Cornelia Street Café
  • Jimmy Cobb at Smoke
  • Ken Fowser Quintet at Smoke
  • Harry Allen Quartet at Small’s
  • Jam session at St Nick’s Pub
  • Charles Lloyd New Quartet at Lincoln Center
  • Ari Hoenig at Small’s
  • Jonathan Batiste at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem

Now, add to that the oftentimes wonderful music I participated in during the course of the ten different worship services I attended (ten?!)  and it made for quite a month.

But then again, this current month is going to do its own kind of work on me too.


One Response to Words from the Road: Sabbatical Update #6

  1. Adeline Berg says:

    It sounds like you are getting all that you had hoped for in your sabbatical. That is so great! We too are very much enjoying our time away. Our list would look a bit different from yours – it would be a list of hikes we have enjoyed! Blessings on you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.