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I spent a number of enjoyable days this past summer listening to Coltrane and reading this book. It is a beautiful and profound piece of theological engagement with Coltrane’s art. Blew me away.

Brian Walsh

Theologian and author of Kicking at the Darkness: Bruce Cockburn and the Christian Imagination

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Jamie, your understanding and love of Coltrane are amazing!

Cornel West 

Union Theological Seminary, New York

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This book is an unexpected gem. It is so well written and so very helpful as a guide to the general issue of theology and music and also as a way in to the music of John Coltrane. I had not bothered to listen to too much Coltrane before I read this but now I have got myself several albums. It is the theology and music equivalent of a well-run wine-tasting course.

Robin Parry 

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If I could give this book six stars, I would. It is beautiful, profound, thoughtful and unique. Reading it was a joyful, educational and profound experience… I will not perceive or experience Coltrane, jazz or any music the same way again. As an artist, John Coltrane continues to impact me, not just as a fan of music.

Pat Loughery, “In The Currach

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I have a limited capacity for jazz, and therefore 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.

[L]ike a gracious sommelier, he 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.

Steve Bell

Songwriter and Recording Artist

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Anyone who knows anything about jazz and John Coltrane’s spiritual quest in music will relish this book. Anyone who loves jazz and is searching for God should “take up and read” as St. Augustine said. Written with vivid attention to sound and to the sacred, Jamie Howison’s pages open up the spiritual and esthetic depths of John Coltrane’s world.  The chapter on “Ascension” alone is worth the whole book, but there is more here than meets the eye and the ear. Along the way we hear many voices testifying to this uniquely American musician who continues to astonish our too easily established categories. Coltrane desired to “sound” the cosmos—to reveal the mystery that surrounds us. This book is an informed act of love for a beautiful, complex one-of-a-kind musician who lived here among us.

Don E. Saliers

Professor of Theology and Worship, Emeritus – Emory University

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Jamie Howison’s work on Coltrane is insightful and just what you’d hope for—a deeper, wider groove, a take on Coltrane that’s not been peddled to death. Read and be enriched.

Charlie Peacock

musician and producer

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Jamie Howison has given us a most original study showing the connections between jazz music and theological truths. He brings together a rare combination of musical and religious expertise. His book is a deeply personal look at the great music of John Coltrane and other jazz artists, showing how their creativity is an expression of the many facets of our humanity, from its tragedies to its triumphs. There is nothing quite like this in the literature. Must reading for anyone who cares about the arts in relation to faith.

William Edgar

Westminster Theological Seminary

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One need not be a fan of jazz or of Coltrane to appreciate the enormous favour Jamie Howison has done for all those who would seek to be transformed by the Good News of the Gospel. Rooted in the theological tradition, careful in its attention to basic biblical themes, and highly conversant with the history of jazz and its most able practitioners, Howison’s text takes us into waters that brim with musical life and joy, waters where God is making all things new.

Christopher R.J. Holmes

University of Otago, New Zealand

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Through a humble and incredibly brave look at the music and life of John Coltrane, Jamie Howison manages to briefly unveil one of the ways God interacts with people, and conversely, how people interact with God. Howison’s thesis is that we are all conduits through which and out of which our longing for God and God’s longing for us is brought forth, but some people, precisely because of the particular circumstances of who they are, can profoundly express this through the medium of music. Detecting a Liturgy of Tongues in the work of Coltrane, the author has very sincerely, in his own careful, thoughtful way, approached an interpretation. The wonderful and challenging beauty of this work is that just as the reader catches a glimpse of the Holy, it slips away, and like Coltrane with a fearsome yearning in his soul, playing until Kingdom Come, we are left with a thirst for more.

Alana Levandoski

songwriter and recording artist


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