It’s a Sunday afternoon in late February, and in the spacious Manhattan loft where his girlfriend lives, Don Byron is watching a sermon by televangelist T.D. Jakes on his laptop. Throughout our conversation, the 53-year-old clarinetist, saxophonist and composer makes humorous yet insightful comments about Jakes’ ministry. At one point, Jakes hits a fevered plateau and revs his seemingly endless congregation into ecstasy. “I just love the way he physically acts things out,” Byron says, as his eyes dance with delight at Jakes’ animated homily. “He’s a comedian; he’s an actor; he’s a mime.” Byron repeatedly compares some of Jakes’ messages to the ideas of Sigmund Freud.
This leads Byron to reflect on another Jakes sermon, “Let It Go.” For this one, the pastor supplied his sea of Dallas churchgoers with helium-filled balloons and Sharpie pens. He instructed them to write whatever hard feelings or painful memories they had onto the balloons and let them ascend into the air. “Letting go of hurts-very Freudian,” Byron says. “There were some hurts that I needed to let go. Even guys that are less Freudian than this, when they catch you on the right day they are talking directly to you.”