On Sunday, November 15, bassist Ike Sturm will celebrate the official release of his self-produced JazzMass recording with a special performance at St. Peter’s Church, where he works as the jazz music director. The performance will feature most of the original players on the CD, including Donny McCaslin, as well as a choir with singers from St. Peter’s, the Union Seminary and the jazz community..
Despite its decidedly secular origins, jazz has a long-standing connection to religion, in part because many jazz musicians got their start playing music not in a conservatory, but in a church..Many jazz artists have composed and performed music with a decidedly religious or spiritual bent, while a few, such as Duke Ellington and Dave Brubeck, have gone so far as to compose material for use in mass or services. In turn, an increasing number of churches have embraced jazz in its services. So St. Peter’s Church on Lexington Avenue in midtown Manhattan is not the only church to incorporate jazz into its services and programs. Even a Lutheran church in my suburban Maryland neighborhood boasts of its weekly jazz mass. But St. Peter’s has not only led the way in bridging the two worlds, but it continues to be a focal point for jazz-related services.