Hans Rookmaaker, the late pipepuffing pundit of Amsterdam, colleague of Francis Schaeffer, and “Rooky” to his young Anglo-Saxon admirers, had a lifelong passion for early jazz. I, too, was grabbed in my teens by the glory of this simple, subtle, cheerful, poignant, bright-colored music, and I venerated Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Johnny Dodds, Sidney Bechet, Tommy Ladnier, Bix Beiderbecke, Bubber Miley, Tricky Sam Nanton, and Muggsy Spanier as its top dispensers.
At 18 I was playing jazz, after a fashion (sloppy gas-pipe clarinet modeled on Pee-Wee Russell). To listen to what was going on in the band around me and help make it happen was as exhilarating an experience as I have ever had.
But when I was converted I could not see, nor could anyone tell me, how this or any other form of secular music or art could be pursued with a Christian motivation. So I gave up jazz, sold my clarinet and records, and let folk around me think I shared their view that what I called New Orleans and they called Dixieland had a devilish influence on its devotees. It came to me as a test of loyalty to my Savior to renounce what I enjoyed so much, and from that standpoint, giving up jazz no doubt did me good.
Yet when Rookmaaker came to faith, he did no such thing. And now my heart says of him, wise man!
In my twenties the pietistic Manicheism (not called that, of course) in which I had been nurtured began to dissolve into an authentic biblical humanism, such as Calvinistic Holland had been able to give Rookmaaker. By my thirties, I had begun to mutter what Rookmaaker was ready to shout from the housetops—namely, that by Christian standards of judgment, early jazz was among the twentieth century’s most valuable ...1
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