Jazz group to perform hymns, spirituals

The Post and Courier
Education takes place in all kinds of ways.
And an entertaining and uplifting lesson is set for Charleston Southern University students and anyone else who wants to come Sunday.
At 3 p.m. in Lightsey Chapel, Mark Sterbank will lead his sextet in a return engagement of jazz interpretations of hymns and spirituals. It’s called Hymns and Spirituals II.
The concert is free. It will last about an hour and a half.
Sterbank, a saxophonist and instrumental artist-in-residence at CSU’s Horton School of Music, is reprising one of the most successful performances in Horton’s Sunday Concert Series last year. “Reaction to it was overwhelmingly positive,” he said. “We got a lot of feedback and interest in it. Hence, we’re doing it again. The university estimated about 500 or 600 people came last year. All the musicians really enjoyed putting the music together and playing it.
“They were very enthusiastic about doing it again.”
Joining Sterbank are percussionist Quentin Baxter, pianist Tommy Gill, trumpeter Charlton Singleton, bassist Herman Burney Jr. and the legendary Fred Wesley, trombonist and former band leader for James Brown.
The ensemble was well-received last year. Barbara Braithwaite, a retired West Ashley resident, was there.
“I’m certainly looking forward to this year’s concert,” she said. “That’s how much I enjoyed last year’s.”
She thought the band’s treatment of the traditional sacred music was contemporary but respectful.
“The modernization of the songs had the performance sort of veering from the traditional ways of playing them in a way that did not offend your religious sensibilities.”
Sterbank hopes students will get the same effect Braithwaite did.
“While it is always educational for students to hear live music, this is an excellent opportunity for them to see the versatility of the jazz style as a vehicle for personal expression. Just as the hits of Tin Pan Alley were used by jazz musicians and transformed into ‘standards,’ so, too, the songs of the faith can be presented in the jazz style without diminishing the meaning or feeling in the original composition. Jazz provides the musicians a platform for personal expression and adds new meaning and feeling to the original compositions.”
This year’s repertoire includes: “Victory in Jesus,” “Just Over in the Glory Land,” “In the Garden,” “Amazing Grace,” “Near the Cross,” “Ezek’el Saw de Wheel,” “Amen, Let Us Break Bread Together,” “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” and “I Want to Be Ready.”
The concert, the first in this year’s Sunday Concert Series, is personal for Sterbank.
“As artist-in-residence at the school, I’m to perform. I love to perform. More specifically, it’s an intersection of my faith and my vocation. I love playing jazz music. The hymns of faith are very important to me and have very deep spiritual meaning.
“It brings about a profound joy. I can’t think of anything that makes me happier.”