BY JACK MCCRAY
The Post and Courier
Mark Sterbank’s jazz hymns and spirituals concerts have been a big hit over the last couple of years, and the next one looks like that trend will continue.
Billed as Hymns & Spirituals III, the feature this time is new arrangements by trombonist Fred Wesley, a member of Sterbank’s sextet, the Mark Sterbank Jazz Group, since the band started in 2005.
“It is a privilege and an honor to feature a musician of Fred’s caliber on this concert,” Sterbank said. “But not just for the bluesy, soulful lines he plays or the penetrating sincerity of his tone. It is the transparency of his expression, the ability to display his whole heart through the music. He has a big heart and generously shares the energy, emotion and thoughtfulness that defines his character both musically and personally. It is my joy to share the stage with him.”
The band has made its solid reputation on songs such as “Jesus Loves Me,” “I’ll Fly Away,” “Balm of Gilead” and “The Lord’s Prayer.”
On Sunday at 3 p.m. at Charleston Southern University’s Lightsey Chapel, Sterbank will introduce songs new to the band’s repertoire and some new arrangements, highlighted by Wesley’s contributions.
“Right now, I’m looking at ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ and ‘Soon I’ll Be Done With the Troubles of the World,’ ” Wesley said in a telephone interview last week from his home in Manning.
He said he was inspired to do a version of the latter when he heard it sang at the Dec. 30 funeral of the legendary James Brown where he performed. Wesley led the famous Fred Wesley and the JB’s, Brown’s band, in the 1960s and ’70s.
“I also know that tune from my father’s choir,” he said. “So when I heard it, I said I should do an arrangement of that for this concert.” Wesley grew up in Mobile, Ala., where his father led choirs and bands. “I’m not all that spiritual a person, but I know that there is something that moves the world. … I don’t know what that is, but I do like spiritual music. This music has opened my eyes and my heart.”
Accompanying Sterbank and Wesley Sunday for the free concert will be drummer Quentin Baxter, bassist Herman Burney Jr., trumpeter Charlton Singleton and pianist Tommy Gill.
Wesley, who still plays all over the world, loves playing with this band. He has his own group and he still records, but playing with the Charleston area ensemble is a blast for him. He said, “We started out as a kind of experiment. My band periodically plays but when I play with Mark, it comes together so good.”
The group last played together for East Cooper Baptist Church’s Concerts for a Cause on Nov. 19. It knocked everybody’s socks off. The band had a great time.
“It was an exciting, electric atmosphere filled with the joyful abandon that accompanies this group whenever we get together,” Sterbank said.
“The audience, made up of all ages, seemed to hang on every note. A good time was had by all.”