The conclusion assesses the overall implications of jazz for studies of American religion. It does so in three interlocking ways. First, it examines jazz’s resistance to the field of racial constraint and misrepresentation Anthony Braxton calls “the reality of the sweating brow” in light of old traditions of reducing and essentializing African American religions. We learn that jazz is a strategy of evasion and religious self-creation alike. Second, this conclusion draws together the book’s two keywords and argues that the fuzziness of “jazz” and “religion” as stable signifiers resonates with contemporary debates about “religion” and the “secular,” leading scholars to realize the ineluctably poetic qualities of their craft. Finally, it proposes that the scholarly engagement with spirits rejoicing—and its terminological limits—constitutes no closure of descriptive and analytic possibility but a fresh way to think about religious experience, since it is the fleeting experience of presence and absence conjoined that is so powerful to those who avow the music is sacred.
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