August 28, 2023

And here's the book cover


Broadleaf Books has revealed the book cover for Bill's new book, scheduled to be 
released on April 23, 2024. They have also set up a link to pre-order the book. 
Click here for more information

July 17, 2023

Here's the Table of Contents

What's in the book? We have had some inquiries. Take a look at the Table of Contents:

Thriving on a Riff: Jazz and the Spiritual Life
William G. Carter
© 2023

Introduction: Counting Off the Tempo

  1. The Wow Moment: The Possibility of Sonic Transcendence

Improvisation: Ebo’s Waltz

  1. What Are They Doing? An Introduction to Jazz

Improvisation: Tale Spinning

  1. Crossing the Dotted Line: Discerning Sacred and Secular

Improvisation: Mind the Gap

  1. A Message from Headquarters

Improvisation: Listening for Selah

  1. The Sparks and Flames of Human Creativity

Improvisation: Refracted Light

  1. Broken But Beautiful: What It Means to Be Human

Improvisation: Lesson in Dissonance

  1. That Healin’ Feeling: The Soundtrack of Restoration

Improvisation: What About the Legs?

  1. Prayers Lifted on a Saxophone

Improvisation: Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Coltrane’s Ascension

  1. Babel and Bebop: The End Was in the Beginning

Improvisation: Another Uncle

  1. Jazz and Our Hidden Wound

Improvisation: Hell-Bent

  1. The Hang: Grooving in Community

Improvisation: How Many Musicians Are In Your Quartet?

  1. Paying Back the Universe: Swinging with Purpose

Improvisation: Somebody’s Calling

  1. Jazz in the Cathedral and Other Great Ideas

Improvisation: Homily from the 50th Anniversary of the Guaraldi Mass

  1. Does This Song Ever End?

Improvisation: Are You Going to Talk About Heaven?


Glossary of Jazz Terms

Recommended Recordings



July 11, 2023

More endorsements

We are pleased to receive some additional affirmation for Thriving on a Riff. Here are a few endorsements:

  • If you've ever been moved by music... Improvised ways to enliven your soul... Pull up a chair, pour yourself a drink, and dive in to Thriving on a Riff. This is prayer. - Diane Stephens Hogue, spiritual director and former convener, Liturgy & Spirituality Seminar Group, North American Academy of liturgy.
  • Jazz is born of diversity; it requires openness. It's a shared improvisational thread that can overcome bigotry and unite all who embrace it. In these pages, Bill Carter - who cheekily confesses that he was put on Earth to "pray the piano" - rhapsodizes about the timeless euphoria of wholly embracing a transformative jazz performance. He's a born raconteur; readers from every walk of life will enjoy his sublime gift of sharing the jazz world's more uplifting and provocative stories, and for gently reminding us of music's power for spiritual healing.  - Derrick Bang, author of Vince Guaraldi at the Piano.

July 9, 2023

Summerfest, and the Living is Easy

 I've been talking about jazz for more years than I can count, often from piano bench. Tonight was a very special gathering for the ecumenical Summerfest in Cortland, NY. Music and words - an unannounced preview of material from the upcoming book. 

It will be fun to take this material on the road, so let me know if you'd like to experience it in your town.

Thanks to longtime friends Dave and Barb Johnson, who made this evening happen. Big fun!

July 8, 2023

Professors of Practice

That's what they call the experts who know what to do: professors of practice. I have great fun convening our Blue Note Tribute Band for an outdoor concert in upstate New York.

We don't merely talk about music. We make it. 

Wish you could have been there!

June 9, 2023

The first endorsement has come in

Kind words from Don Saliers:

If you’ve ever wondered about how jazz and authentic spirituality generate both joy and truth, this book’s for you. In Thriving on a Riff, Bill Carter writes as a jazz musician and a pastor with a keen sense of spirituality. Bearing Saint Irenaeus (2nd century) in mind - “the glory of God is a human being fully alive” - Carter gives us an astonishing tour of a “Who’s Who” of great jazz musicians. Their stories, reveal the depth of their own wrestling with angels and demons. What emerges in these pages is a polyphonic account of how jazz and deep spirituality keep remarkably demanding close company.

This book is no less than a love song to the art and genius of improvisation. But it is also a musical primer about transcendence and the risks of biblical faith. Along the way we overhear the author’s own listening and playing. What do prophecy, ecstasy, wisdom and good jazz have in common? These pages give us teasing, provocative access to the answer. The pleasure here is that the words read like jazz sounds. Should you not be a jazz fan, or perhaps a spiritual sceptic, Carter’s book may just change your mind. But if you love jazz and seek a deep sense of what is spiritual, this is a feast.

                       Don E. Saliers, Professor of Theology and Liturgy, Emeritus, Emory University

                       co-author of A Song to Sing, A Life to Live with daughter Emily of the Indigo Girls

May 25, 2023

As time goes by

It's written. 

It's edited. 

It's copyedited. 

It's described and proposed. 

It's contracted.

Now, it's under the microscope in the publishing house, being reviewed for style, formatted, formulated, and prepared. I've been asked to review the updated "package." That includes nearly twenty passages that need new footnotes and a dab of my editing.

While that process has been underway, I've secured official permission from a half-dozen sources to quote or utilize other people's material. It's no surprise the publishers for Henri Nouwen and Thomas Merton requested modest fees for some brilliant passages that I used. Pleasantly, the University of Chicago Press allowed me to quote a long paragraph for free.

Even better, I enjoyed a generous e-mail conversation with Dave Brubeck's attorney. He was deeply interested in my work and requested that I forward all my mentions and allusions to Dave for his review. And for the Brubeck family's review. I was glad to send it along, although I second guessed whether or not my research (and memories) were accurate. Fortunately, he expressed his personal affirmation - and the Brubeck family's support - for the project. No fee necessary.

Next up: securing endorsements for the back cover, inside cover, and promotional use.

And here's the book cover

  Broadleaf Books has revealed the book cover for Bill's new book, scheduled to be  released on April 23, 2024. They have also set up a ...