Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Book Review: 'Finding the Groove' by Robert Gelinas


By Jerry Starks
“Finding the Groove” by Robert Gelinas (Zondervan, 2009) is a deep and multi-faceted exploration of the Christian life and jazz. The subtitle entices you with another clue about where Gelinas is heading: “composing a jazz-shaped faith.”

This intrigued me on two levels, because I had assumed that jazz wasn’t really composed– it was more improvised. That also seems to be many people’s style of life– improvisation more than planning. As I read further, I became very engrossed in his thoughtful observations about jazz and Christianity.

Gelinas is not a musician; he is a pastor and a jazz theologian. He explains that jazz is bigger than just music: it can be an entire lifestyle (not just the improvisational aspect), and a very Christian lifestyle at that. “Christian” not just by putting different labels on things but by using patterns and behaviors developed in jazz music when we interact with God and with our fellow humans. Even the history and development of jazz should ring with familiarity in Christian ears. Jazz was developed by African-Americans: people not free living in a free land—just as we were all born slaves of sin living in a fallen world. Yet even in the midst of deep segregation, jazz became a meeting ground where races could actually enjoy the same thing at the same time in the same place—just as in Jesus there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor slave.

Three cornerstones of jazz form a framework for Gelinas’ exploration. They are syncopation, improvisation, and call-and-response. He explains how each works in jazz music, then gives examples of how they can work outside of music, often giving examples from Scripture.

This would have been encouraging and enlightening by itself, but Gelinas keeps on going. He discusses jazz greats in many areas of life, such as John Coltrane, a saxophonist, Langston Hughes, a poet, Ralph Ellison, a novelist, Martin Luther King, Jr., a preacher. Each of them was influenced by jazz, and each made significant contributions to America. The depth and scope of Gelinas’ understanding of jazz and American culture is deeply satisfying.

Chapter headings include “Creative Tension,” “Life in Concert,” “Finding Your Voice,” and “Developing Your Ear.” All of them have a musical basis, but all of them go far beyond that art form the just like jazz cannot be restricted to a concert hall: it gets into all of life. In the same way, insists Gelinas, the love of Jesus should break out of our familiar constructs and pulse with life, causing others to stop and listen. One way of doing that is to compose and live a jazz-shaped faith.

You can purchase this book here.

Jerry Starks is associate director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. and has numerous acting and directing credits in both secular and Christian productions. He resides in Essex Junction, VT where he is active in the arts ministry at his church.

1 comment:

jazztheologian said...

Thank you.

jazztheologian

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Lauren Yarger, Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

In 2008 she was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater with a Christian perspective for Reflections in the Light (http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/) and is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection. She also is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com

She also reviews books for Publisher's Weekly and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. She formerly was Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp, a national theater web site bsed in New York and a reviewer for American Theater Web.

She also served as Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. and worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.

She is a freelance writer and member of the Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and The CT Critics Circle.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger lives with her husband in West Granby, CT and has two adult children.

Copyright Notice

All contents copyright © Lauren Yarger 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, contact masterworkproductions@yahoo.com.

Scripture from THE MESSAGE Copyright 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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