Melvin L. Butler, jazz saxophonist and ethnomusicologist, will give two public lectures at the Divinity School on Tuesday Jan. 31. The events are co-sponsored by the Office of Black Church Studies  and Duke Initiatives in Theology and the Arts .
At 12:20 p.m., Butler will speak in the Alumni Memorial Commons Room on "The Spirit of David: Negotiating Faith and Masculinity in Black Gospel Performance."  That evening at 5:30 p.m., he'll lecture in the York Room on "Performing Transcendence: Thoughts on Musical Blackness, the Holy Spirit, and Jazz Improvisation."  A reception will follow his evening lecture.
Butler earned a Ph.D. in music from New York University in 2005 and is an assistant professor of music at the University of Chicago. An ethnomusicologist with broad interests in music and religion of the African diaspora, he has conducted extensive field research on popular music making in relation to charismatic Christianity in Haitian and Jamaican communities.
At the heart of his work lies a critical reconsideration of how spiritually charged music making is deeply embedded in processes of boundary crossing, identity formation, and social positioning in post-colonial contexts.
As a musician, Butler has worked professionally with jazz artists including Betty Carter, Joey DeFrancesco, Christian McBride, and Jimmy McGriff. He now performs mostly with Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band, with whom he is featured on three recordings, Brian Blade Fellowship (Blue Note 1998), Perceptual (Blue Note 2000), and Season of Changes (Verve 2008).