Theology in the company of a jazz icon

Theology in the company of a jazz icon

On a personal note, from Jamie Howison: As many people around saint benedict’s table are well aware, for several years now I’ve been working away on a project that seeks to do some theological work through the music of jazz legend John Coltrane. The project will be published as a book sometime in the next year or so, but in the meantime here is an opportunity to get a bit of a preview of what I’ve been working on.

On Saturday March 17, 2012 I delivered the keynote address at the Third Annual Symposium of the The Canadian Institute for Studies in Pop Culture and Religion, held at Booth University College in Winnipeg. As I said in my introductory remarks, in some respects my own interests don’t quite fit with the mandate of the Institute. The Institute’s focus is on religion and pop culture, whereas the starting point for my work has been unapologetically theological. Borrowing from the writings of Jeremy Begbie, I am most interested in exploring the ways in which the music of John Coltrane enacts theological wisdom, and it is to this that I turned in the second half of my address. However, in a nod to the interests of the Institute, in the first half of the address I did pay particular attention to the religious questions surrounding Coltrane’s person and work.

  • To listen to the audio of the address, simply click the arrow. It can also be downloaded as a podcast on iTunes.

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And due to copyright restrictions, there are only brief excerpts of three songs included in this podcast: “My Favorite Things” from the 1961 Atlantic album of the same name; “The Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost” from the 1965 Impulse record Meditations, and “Alabama” from the Jazz Icons DVD, John Coltrane Live in ’60, ’61 and ’65. The original recording of “Alabama” is available on the 1963 Impulse album Live at Birdland, which is actually not a bad place for a beginner to start exploring Coltrane’s music.


[1] Begbie, Theology, Music and Time, 5.


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