Saturday, December 31, 2005

What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?

Hat tip: Ella Fitzgerald

Here's an interesting article from today's Chicago Tribune describing the historical roots of the Watch Night Service and its importance in many African-American churches.

And if you're up into the wee hours of the morning, check out Bob Marovich's Gospel Memories program from 3:00 - 7:30 a.m. Central Time. You can listen to it online at This month's broadcast will feature an interview with Lorenza Brown Porter, founding member of the famous gospel ensemble the Argo Singers.

Wherever you are this New Year's Eve, be safe, moderate and reflective. I'll see you next year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Sacred Jazz

A few weeks ago, Dr. M. wrote in search of sacred jazz and related resources. I directed him to this post, and he shared a playlist that he discovered, originating from a "Jazz Goes To Church" program that aired on Boston's WGBH. Go check it out--if you're wondering where you should start in building a sacred jazz collection (I see that hand!) I think several of these CDs would make a great starter kit (Ahh, the Starter Kit--another post for another day.).

Here are a few other resources. As always, write in with your comments, suggestions and leads.

I recently learned about Bending Toward the Light: A Jazz Nativity. I'm also listening to Holy Night: A Jazz Celebration of Christmas, a great addition to some of my other seasonal favorites (Oh, like you didn't know!)

Church Jazz Records is a record company whose mission is "to make available liturgy, hymns and recordings of sacred jazz, and to support worship services which incorporate sacred jazz." (Martin Marty says: "When Tecson and company bring jazz into the sanctuary, they induce awe.")

Spirit Jazz Records, another record company, exists "to bring an awareness of Christian Jazz to the national marketplace. Our goal is to place Christian Jazz along side other viable forms of worship within the Christian music industry as a normal, healthy part of the radio and retail world."

The Christian Jazz Artists Network is a networking/fellowship group for artists who perform sacred jazz, as well as jazz artists who are Christians. There are a lot of good resources here, and you can purchase music via this site. There is also a Fellowship of Creative Christian Jazz Musicians.

Bill Ward and Kersten Stevens have recently released jazz/gospel albums. Kim Jordan's CD "Full Circle" is has been nominated for Stellar Awards in the categories of Contemporary Female Artist and Instrumental Gospel Jazz CD. Here's some info about gospel jazz.

And so begins what could be a very lengthy and information-rich discussion. I know this list has only scratched at the surface of the surface. So, dear readers/lurkers, add your own lists, thoughts, et cetera.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Go, Tell It on the Mountain: Gospel Music and Christmas Music

In this discussion, two of my nerdy-girl heroes (NPR's Juan Williams and musician/music historian Dr. Horace Clarence Boyer) talk about the histories of gospel and Christmas music, and how they merged in rich and interesting ways. Delightful.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

A Provocative Quote From the Queen of Soul

"Gospel is and will always be an integral part of who I am. Gospel is the good news--His birth, His life, His resurrection. Gospel is all feeling and faith and about the life and techings and miracles and trials and prophecies of Jesus, a music of unshakable conviction and determination that things will get better. Its root is rock-solid optimism and the certain knowledge that God is real.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I am a traditionalist when it comes to gospel, and it doesn't mean I don't appreciate the modern forms. There are many ways to praise the Lord. Different generations hear different beats. I must say, though, that when the bass lines are pure boogie and the beats are pure funk, I wouldn't call it gospel. And when it makes you want to dance and pop your fingers, believe me, it isn't gospel. When the performer's body language is funking so hard as to be religiously disrespectful, then I wouldn't call it gospel. Gospel is a higher calling; gospel is about God. Gospel is about beautiful and glorious voices and spirit-filled performances and people who are anointed. When it comes to God's music, men like Joe Ligons and James Cleveland and Claude Jeter have some of the voices I like best. I need that old-fashioned, stick-to-your-ribs gospel, the kind that will carry you as far as you need to go. As Dr. King used to say after a dynamite dinner, 'I can go around the world on a meal like that.' Well, I can go around the world on the best gospel."

--Aretha Franklin in Aretha: From These Roots by Aretha Franklin and David Ritz

Thoughts? Responses?

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Friday, December 16, 2005

Carlton Pearson on This American Life

This weekend, the radio program This American Life will feature the story of Bishop Carlton Pearson, the televangelist and gospel singer who's come under fire in recent years for embracing universalism.

I enjoy this program, and I'm very interested to see how the reporters handle the story. My hope is that it will be thoughtful and fair to all parties involved, avoiding stereotyping and caricaturing the people on different sides of this issue. We'll see. Tune in (go to TAL's Web page and click "Where to Listen" in the navigation bar on the left to get your local listing info) and we can talk about it here.

Here's some background on the story.

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Thursday, December 15, 2005

Gospel Grammy Nominations

The Recording Academy announced the nominations for the 48th annual Grammy Awards last week. You can read the list of gospel-related nominees here--scroll down to categories 51-58. Then, feel free to add your comments and predictions, if you'd like.

A Contextless Observation About Spirituals and Death in This Week's News

The spirituals appear in two of the last week's major news stories. I'm still thinking more about the ways that death, religion and the music of the elders interact in these stories, but for now:

According to several news reports, Rigoberto Alpizar (the passenger fatally shot after allegedly making a bomb threat at Miami International Airport) sang "Go Down Moses" before boarding.

At a gathering of protestors outside San Quentin State Prison demonstrating against the execution of Stanley Williams, folk singer Joan Baez sang "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot."