Forbidden Fruit or Fit for a King? (part one)

apple.gifWhen singer Tony Bennett was pressured to convert his repertoire to the popular rock-n-roll of the 1950’s, he asked the opinion of a long-time friend and musician Count Basie.  Basie simply told him, “Why change an apple?”  Tony Bennett kept singing his standards and today has found a huge, new appreciative audience.  I recently heard Bennett sing in person in Denver and was struck by his consistency in his selection of music.  In that concert, he said that he believes the most distinctively-American music this nation has ever given the world is jazz.  That shocked me.  How could rock-n-roll, with its worldwide dominance, not be America’s greatest contribution to the musical scene?  The simple answer, at least from Bennett’s perspective, is that rock music (and all its musical children) is just bad music–not necessarily in a moral sense but absolutely in a musical sense.  I agree with him.  Rock-n-roll is immature music.  It is cheap.  It is undeveloped.  It is unbalanced.  It has terrible historical associations.  That being said, its simple, visceral appeal has propelled it to incredible popularity.  It is not going away.

Outside of the Pink Panther, Charlie Brown, Sesame Street, and Mister Rogers Neighborhood, my exposure to jazz has been fairly limited.  In Christian circles, I have always heard jazz as one in a list of musical genres to avoid and as part of the evil progression to modern rock music.  Today, I have a different opinion.

I like jazz.   I can listen to it for hours.  It is, to me, a remarkable combination of both mentally stimulating as well as physically soothing sound.  But I have learned that I cannot simply enjoy something because it feels good to me.  I must use discernment.  I must strive for excellence.  So, before I could embrace the genre, I needed to answer two questions: (1) is jazz good music? and (2) is it fit for my King?  By good music, I am referring to musical quality and not moral quality.  Because I believe that worship encompasses all of life, I must also determine its worthiness as a vehicle of worship.

to be continued…

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