Part II of a Q&A with Warren Cooper: State of jazz and jazz worship

 The son of a minister, Warren Cooper grew up playing music inside the Presbyterian church. 

The son of a minister, Warren Cooper grew up playing music inside the Presbyterian church. 

Earlier this month, musician Warren Cooper ran a very spirited (and spiritual) jazz worship service alongside his ensemble during 10:30 a.m. worship services at Grace.

A child of a Presbyterian minister, Warren grew up in the church and alongside a passion for liturgy and scripture, it was the music – and the various types of music – that truly captured his attention and aided in building his relationship with Christ.

However in addition to his passion for a jazz worship, Warren noted that with it came a passion for the genre of jazz music as a whole. A genre of music born primarily from old worship hymnals and songs, became an important tool in his own right in the birth of modern secular music. But where is jazz today? As its popularity continues to make a return in becoming more prevalent in churches, it’s impact on today’s music isn’t the dynamo it once was.

We asked Warren his thoughts and here’s what he had to say:

What is it about jazz that caught your attention?
Along with having grown up with a wide variety of worship music, I also grew up in jazz. I can remember early times where I knew I wanted to [merge] the two together. They were never mutually exclusive for me.

Where is jazz today? With all the other clutter of music, would you saying it’s becoming a lost art?
Jazz has changed. From a [radio] market perspective, jazz and classical music make up just four percent of the market. However, within the context of that number and the context of the cultural aspect, I would describe jazz actually as being in the middle of a resurgence. Now, there are cultural conversations around that resurgence given the gentrification of neighborhoods and the jazz that comes forth from that gentrification, but that’s just a sociological comment about the state of the players.

 During the first week of November, Warren's Cooper's Jazz Ensemble played Grace's 10:30 a.m. jazz worship service. 

During the first week of November, Warren's Cooper's Jazz Ensemble played Grace's 10:30 a.m. jazz worship service. 

What’s being to do revive the art form itself?

A lot of the musicians that are my age or older that have focused on schooling some of the younger musicians not just about what to play, but how to play. It’s all in the approach. The [jazz] community is growing and there are becoming more places to hear the music. Now, you can listen to a rendition of Miles Davis’ “Seven Steps to Heaven,” almost anywhere in the city performed by all different types of wonderful musicians. So the music is thriving and it’s thriving in its own niche.

Where do you see this progression headed and how differently will jazz sound not just in its own genre, but also how that progression makes it back into a worship service?

The role of the jazz musician is changing and the role of the music is changing. But within all of those contexts I would say jazz is as healthy as it’s been and it looks a lot differently than it used to. With time there’s change, some things change for better or worse, but because of where the soul of jazz derives from it’ll never stray far from its roots and this music is deeply rooted in the church.

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