Is there such a thing as Easter Jazz? Interpretations of Christmas tunes by jazz musicians have become commonplace, but recordings celebrating the Resurrection are rare. Let me suggest the new Come Sunday CD by Charlie Haden and Hank Jones (Decca) as an appropriate release for the Lenten season. This collection of sacred songs was recorded over a two-day period in early 2010, just weeks before pianist Jones made his own pilgrimage from these mortal shores. Perhaps reminded of their own mortality, Jones and Haden have chosen a set list that offers a brief outline of material reflecting the Savior’s birth and death.
By no means a Christmas collection, Come Sunday includes both “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” and “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” as brief nods to the beginning of His life. The remainder of the collection contains contemplative piano/bass duets such as “Take My Hand, Precious Lord,” “Deep River” and “Sweet Hour of Prayer.” The end of the Easter story is inevitable, of course, and it is told beautifully with interpretations of “The Old Rugged Cross” and “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?”
It is no wonder that Haden and Jones seem extremely comfortable working together, as this is their second studio date as a duo. The first was nearly two decades ago, when they also chose a few religious pieces for their Steal Away CD. But while this earlier set of “Spirituals, Hymns, and Folk Songs” provides an overview, the new Come Sunday release is far more focused, as if the musicians had important information to pass along to the listener.
Appropriately serious but not somber, the duo includes two up-tempo celebratory exchanges with “Down by the Riverside” and “Give Me That Old Time Religion.” The CD closes with Ellington’s reflective title composition, itself hinting at an anticipation of what this Holy Day will bring. An Easter collection? Perhaps. But no matter how this music is experienced, it remains an uplifting and moving set.