Jazz, entrepreneurship, and tradition


Keith Jarrett

As an enthusiastic jazz fan and an appreciator of business entrepreneurship, I enjoy watching folks make it up as they go along. Nothing affirms my sense of human beings as “co-creators” with God (a favored term of that great co-creator, J R R Tolkien) more than listening to the swooping, soaring melodic lines of a skilled jazz musician. Nothing hits me more powerfully with the great practical power of creative thinking than seeing an entrepreneur take the germ of an idea and spin it out into products, services, jobs that turn raw materials into something of value to the world.

But as a historian, I am reminded that when true jazz musicians hear an improviser who has not studied the traditions handed down through generations of jazz men and women . . . they shake their heads and turn away. And when veteran businesspeople see a young wannabe rushing out to potential consumers without proper understanding of their needs, or building financial castles without grounding in economic knowledge and financial principles . . . they wince, knowing the inevitable failure that will follow.

So why can’t the American church learn this lesson? Why do we keep rushing to and fro launching all our creative ministries, church growth strategies, and grand “missional” plans, unequipped with even a basic acquaintance of those giants whose shoulders we are standing on? What is it that, unlike any other craft or business on earth, leads us to think that we can ignore history and still succeed? Why do we think we can bypass 2,000 years of wise thinking (and lessons learned the hard way) about the Gospel, about what it is to Be The Church, and bring our fevered plans about how to “Do Church” to fruitful reality?

OK, flame off. As you were. I’m going to go think about New Years Resolutions . . . AND the Great Cloud of Witnesses.

And by the way: R.I.P. Dave Brubeck–one of the greats. And long live Keith Jarrett (pictured above), a living legend and influencer of a whole new generation of skilled, creative players.

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One response to “Jazz, entrepreneurship, and tradition

  1. Jazz bassist John Patitucci, too. My son studied with him. Thank you for your embrace of jazz. As you likely know, Chesterton thought otherwise of it and wrote as much. I love it for a number’s general shape: head (or statement), improv over the head (or in the spirit of the statement), recapitulation. Even Coleman’s harmolodics follows this, albeit in a very “out” fashion. And this shape is the shape of our lives in Christ: he is our head, statement of fundamental harmonic structure/architecture, to whom we attend, so that we may live improvisationally in the spirit of the head — and unto whom we return at the end, bringing our particular contributions into a mutual & joyful restatement of his fullness. It is even analogous to a single day lived in him. But enough. I am grateful to have found your site.

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