Liturgical Jazz 

Liturgical Jazz can be defined as "Jazz in Churches, serving the liturgy." Liturgical Jazz is primarily composed to serve the church liturgy in the form of liturgical compositions and in new arrangements of chorales and hymns. First recorded example: Liturgical Jazz (Ed Summerlin, Ecclesia 1959)

Here are excerpts  from a jazz worship service directed by me at the largest evangelical gathering and church festival in Germany, the Kirchentag (2019 in Dortmund), where the network BlueChurch hosted a jazz church.
The musicians: Chanda Rule - vocals, Daniel Stickan - piano, Gernot Bernroider - Drums, Marcel Krömker - bass and 
Uwe Steinmetz - saxophone. Liturgy: Kathrin Oxen and Maike Wächter. Some pictures are added from the Blues Mass in Hamburg´s St. Katharinen church, an annual celebration with jazz and blues at its heart and liturgical core. Pastor: Frank engelbrecht


Since 2009, I experiment with alternative formats of liturgical jazz where jazz engages with theological reflections on a shared topic. The liturgy of these services is very reduced to allow jazz and theology to connect in an intimate dialogue, while maintaining a ritual atmosphere including prayers, silence and a blessing. Here are short excerpts of the liturgy from the 9-part series "Alone together - on the meaning of freedom" which I hosted at the American Church Berlin as a "Jazz Evensong" in the summer of 2020. All of the evenings can be found -> here <-


A typical, challenging and enriching way to engage with the liturgy as a jazz musician is to interact with the spoken word.  Here is an example from a "jam session" based on a poetic re-working (impromptu) on the Lord´s prayer by Matthias Krieg. Matthias recites the poem and the Yves Theiler Trio and me are reacting to the spoken words with no text at hand or a rehearsal. 

"Prayer without words" - Instrumental chorale interpretations

Beyond the dialogue with the spoken words there is improvisation on the heart and soul of the liturgy, the chorales and their poetic heritage of faith narratives. Within jazz liturgies, the free improvisation on a chorale matching the overall theme of the worship service or liturgical moment is one of the most expressive, direct but intimate possibilities to comment musically on what is said, felt and present. Here is an example of an improvisation on the advent hymn "O come, O come, Emmanuel" for an online service in December 2020, recorded at the chapel of Berlin´s Memorial church. 


Here is a radio service with Liturgical Jazz from 7January 2018, it represents the typical liturgical format in my home church, the memorial church in Berlin. Liturgical Jazz was chosen as the musical language in combination with the organist. 

-> Click here to listen to the service <-