Singer/songwriter Steve Bell (Ebonie Klassen Photography)
Jamie, like a gracious sommelier, illuminates eight Coltrane pieces compelling the reader to taste the music for h(er) self.
—Steve Bell, singer-songwriter
There's a reason Steve Bell is listed as a singer, songwriter and storyteller. When you go to a Steve Bell concert, there's the music of course. But there's also the banter from the stage that is always really compelling.
One of the things you notice when Steve talks - about his life, his music, his observations - is that he is well read.
Bell always has a book on the go and what he reads seems to fuel his songwriting and his amazing sense of empathy.
We at SCENE online weren't surprised that when we invited him to share a book recommendation, that he wrote back almost immediately.
Someone once told me they
were much less interested in books people had read once, than ones they'd read
There are two fine books I've read twice this year alone: Malcolm Guite's Faith, Hope and Poetry - Theology and the Poetic Imagination and Gregory Wolfe's Beauty Will Save the World - Recovering the Human in an Idealogical Age.
I've just finished another, which I plan to immediately begin again. Winnipeg author Jamie Howison's new book God's Mind in That Music - Theological Explorations through the Music of John Coltrane was a surprising and exceptional read.
I have a limited capacity for jazz, and had no particular interest in Coltrane. But Jamie's love of the music, the complex story, his capacity to articulate the artistic (mystic) way of knowing, and his thoughtful theological explorations make for a unique and important experience.
Ever dialogical, Jamie also draws into conversation a respectable range of writers who have thought deeply about the intersection of arts and theology.
After a short but well researched history of theology's engagement with music, a thoughtful discussion about the "contested story of jazz," some careful biography (never hagiography,) and many touching, very human stories gleaned from research and interviews, Jamie, like a gracious sommelier, illuminates eight Coltrane pieces compelling the reader to taste the music for h(er) self.
Before I started to read, I wasn't assuming I'd be purchasing the music, but I found myself at several points having to put the book down, find the piece on iTunes, then take a walk around block with my headset on before returning to the book.
One doesn't need to be a lover of jazz or interested in theological exploration to enjoy this book, but I can't imagine the reader's interest not being piqued after reading it. The enthusiasm comes from Jamie himself whose engagement is masterfully invitational and infectious. This sounds almost silly to say, but though the story itself is fraught with very human brokenness and loss, the book left me hopeful, even happy, opening new trails to adventure.
Hear Steve Bell on Up to Speed with host Larry Updike Wednesday November 28 between 3:30 and 4:00 p.m. Steve Bell performs on November 30 in Morden Manitoba at the Christian Life Centre and on December 1 at North Kildonan Mennonite Brethren Church.