Jazz is a uniquely American form of music originating in New Orleans. Because the port city was one of the only places in the United States to permit slaves to own drums, jazz began as the voice of slavery, the stories of African Americans forced into servitude. The sounds, the structure, and the use of instruments were born as a declaration and celebration of their humanity in the face of sub-human treatment.
The drumbeat of jazz is the rhythm of the collective drumbeat of the civil rights movement. While its evolution from slave chants and church hymns to blues and ragtime composition, and finally the improvisational elements that made jazz a genre unto itself, serves as a history lesson and a metaphor for survival and adaptation in the face of oppression, challenges, and obstruction.
When we think of the “Jazz Age,” we refer to the 1920s, the prohibition era that led up to the Great Depression. This was a time when Black musicians were adapted into the mainstream music movement and celebrated at venues like Carnegie Hall. This was the same time period that saw the Harlem Renaissance in literature, which introduced writers such as Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. These voices gave context and legitimacy to the black experience in America that helped foster the political consciousness needed to advance Civil Rights.
Bang the drum slowly. Use a little rhythm. Spice up those old familiar hymns that have helped form your faithfulness. Don’t be restricted by the chains of oppression from your past; be expressive and unrestrictive in your sounds. Jazz it up.
We plan to “jazz” things up to commemorate this Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend. We invite you to join us for our monthly jazz worship service this Sunday, January 15th, at 6:00 PM. You are guaranteed to be inspired by some of the finest jazz performers you will ever experience. We also invite you earlier as we gather at 8:00 AM (spoken liturgy) and 10:15 AM (traditional worship).