A Supreme Love by William Edgar explores the history of jazz music and sets it alongside questions about the meaning of and hope found in Christianity.
I was surprised to find as much historical background as Edgar provides here, and I must say the surprise was a pleasant one. Indeed, the entire first part (of three) is dedicated to historical context, and shows not only how jazz music arose from spirituals, but also how Christianity was leveraged by the enslaved to find hope and even find acts of resistance against the enslavers, who themselves claimed Christianity as their faith. The juxtaposition of the two Christian-ities is stark at times. The colonialism and evils found therein is starkly displayed, such as the discussion of hope found in music even on board slave ships (23).
Later in the book, Edgar whisks readers past a who’s-who of jazz musicians, showing the evolution of the sound, the use of language, and the way it is intertwined with Christianity. Edgar demonstrates a total knowledge of the topic, effortlessly skimming lyrics from a variety of artists to demonstrate his points and cultural milieus that he is discussing through the book. That knowledge and intimate detail Edgar displays makes the book constantly readable, and, as odd as it sounds, turns it into something of a page-turner. This reader was happy to go along for the ride one afternoon, looking up the references Edgar provides for sampling the music as he goes (youtube links, largely, with wonderful renditions of jazz tunes from various artists and styles) even as I enjoyed the theological tenor of the book.
A Supreme Love is a fantastic read by someone who clearly loves the subject and knows it inside and out. I recommend it highly for basically anyone interested at all in music, justice, or Christianity. It’s a great all-around read.
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