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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Student Exhibits at MPAL: Liturgical Jazz: the Lineage of the Subgenre in the Music of Edgar E. Summerlin

About Liturgical Jazz

Edgar Eugene “Ed” Summerlin

Saxophonist, clarinetist, composer, arranger, and educator Edgar Eugene “Ed” Summerlin, born September 1, 1928, was a seminal figure in the development of liturgical jazz, having composed the first liturgical jazz service in 1959. In his formative years, he was firmly rooted in the bebop tradition, but one always looking to push boundaries, he embraced the work of Ornette Coleman and the conventions of the avant-garde scene. Summerlin used his skills as a performer and arranger, and the personal and creative relationships he forged with extraordinary jazz players in New York, to create contemporary liturgical jazz works firmly in the jazz tradition of the 1960s. These jazz services were not a service of jazzed-up hymns, they were complete services of worship including original music grounded in sound theology. By the mid-1960s, when others had entered the liturgical and sacred jazz arena, Summerlin incorporated the innovations of avant-garde jazz and contemporary classical music into his liturgical jazz services. During the late 1960s, when others were turning to more pop-oriented styles for liturgical music, he embraced jazz, congregational participation, and multimedia explorations in worship. As a composer, he contributed jazz compositions to the canon for congregations who were looking to update their selection of hymns. As an author, Summerlin was a tireless advocate for including contemporary jazz in congregational worship.  As the 1960s progressed other artists got involved in liturgical jazz and sacred jazz.  Over the course of my doctoral research I managed to collect various recordings, photographs, scores and other artifacts.  Some of them are displayed here.

--Derick Cordoba, DMA

Liturgical Jazz: the Lineage of the Subgenre in the Music of Edgar E. Summerlin Exhibit

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