November 17, 2014 by Alex Johannigman
I often get the question from many of my devoted followers. “Alex, why do you call your blog ‘All That Catholic Jazz?’ You write about Catholic things, but you never write about jazz. And I’m pretty sure Catholic jazz isn’t even a thing!”
Ok. Confession time (pun intended): No one has ever asked me that, but I like to pretend that someone has at some point.
But if someone did ask me that, I would be answering their question today by presenting to them the first ever *drumroll* “All That Catholic Jazz review of Catholic Jazz.”
I want to tell the whole world about a great new album that I recently discovered by Sam Rocha, a popular blogger on the Catholic channel of Patheos. Rocha’s album, Late to Love, is a meditation on St. Augustine’s Confessions set to a blues/ funk style. I love it for a number of reasons:
1. I’m a sucker for jazz music. That comes with being an avid swing dancer and a member of my high school’s jazz band back in the day, where I would occasionally cover bass guitar parts on my bass clarinet. True story.
2. St. Augustine is one of my favorite saints. That comes from me being a sinner.
3. I love Christian music that doesn’t suck. That comes from me having good taste in music, in my completely humble and totally biased opinion.
The best way to describe it would be to call it “Augustinian Soul,” which is a phrase stolen from Rocha himself. Soul music is not as much a genre as it is a sentiment, a quality. When a musician “has soul” it is not because they have a certain technical style, but because they have a certain conviction, grit, and sincerity. Soulful music is music that has the capacity to show and offer love.
Like The Doctor’s TARDIS, this music is bigger on the inside. When I first listened to the album all the way through just over a week ago, I knew I needed to give it another listen soon because I’d probably missed about 80% of the meaning behind the words. Now that I’ve listened to it a couple more times, I think that has jumped to 95%. The deeper you go into it, the greater the depths are. As such, I’m not going to try to explain the meaning of each song. You’ll need to do that yourself.
Some of the tunes (particularly “Late to Love” and “Eggs with Love”) are so catchy that I found myself singing along to their choruses before I’d even finished listening to them all the way through for the first time. This is not meant to be liturgical music, nor is it trying to gain popularity as devotional music. It’s just good, soulful, poetic music that you can listen to and enjoy.
Another thing that I really appreciated about the album is how truly diverse the music is, a refreshing break from much of modern pop music which all sounds the same. Some songs are more upbeat and catchy (“Late to Love,” “Genesis Time,” “Alien House”), some are more relaxing and give one the opportunity to meditate (“Show Me,” “Always Already Blues”) and there are even some purely instrumental tracks which were truly beautiful (“Nemo Est (Qui Non Amet), “Eulogy for Monica,” “Show Me (Reprise)”).
Also, if you noticed the type of fruit that the album cover resembles and why that’s important for an album based on St. Augustine, enjoy a metaphorical gold star from me. (Hint, it’s a pear)