by Colin Marshall, Open Culture: http://www.openculture.com/2016/09/the-history-of-spiritual-jazz.html
Jazz has inspired a great many things, and a great many things have
inspired jazz, and more than a few of the music’s masters have found
their aspiration by looking - or listening - to the divine. But that
doesn’t necessarily mean they subscribe to traditional religion.
befits this naturally eclectic music that grew from an inherently
eclectic country before it internationalized, its players tend to have
an eclectic conception of the divine. In some of their interpretations,
that conception sounds practically all-encompassing. You can experience
the full spectrum of these aural visions, from the deeply personal to
the fathomlessly cosmic, in this four-part, twelve-hour playlist of spiritual jazz from London online radio station NTS.
“During the tumultuous ’60s, there was a religious revolution to
accompany the grand societal, sexual, racial, and cultural shifts
already afoot,” writes Pitchfork’s Andy Beta.
“Concurrently, the era’s primary African-American art form reflected
such upheaval in its music, too: Jazz began to push against all
constraints, be it chord changes, predetermined tempos, or melodies, so
as to best reflect the pursuit of freedom in all of its forms.”
This culminated in John Coltrane’s masterpiece A Love Supreme,
which opened the gates for other jazz players seeking the transcendent,
using everything from “the sacred sound of the Southern Baptist church
in all its ecstatic shouts and yells” to “enlightenment from
Southeastern Asian esoteric practices like transcendental meditation and
It goes without saying that you can’t talk about spiritual jazz
without talking about John Coltrane. Nor can you ignore the distinctive
music and theology of Herman Poole Blount, better known as Sun Ra, composer, bandleader, music therapist, Afrofuturist, and teacher of a course called “The Black Man in the Cosmos.”
NTS’ expansive mix
offers work from both of them and other familiar artists like Alice
Coltrane, Earth, Wind & Fire, Herbie Hancock, Gil
Scott-Heron, Ornette Coleman, and many more (including players from as
far away from the birthplace of jazz as Japan) who, whether or not
you’ve heard of them before, can take you to places you’ve never been
Start listening with the embedded first part of the playlist above; continue on to parts two, three, and four, and maybe - just maybe - you’ll come out of it wanting to found a church of your own.