￼"Hymns & Spirituals" liner notes by Tommy Sancton
These live recordings were made at Trinity Episcopal Church in New Orleans as part of the Trinity Artists Series. For me, these concerts had a special meaning, since I had grown up in this church, sung in the youth choir and served as an acolyte there. I didn’t have much contact with Trinity during the 40 years that I lived away from New Orleans, but when I returned in 2007 Albinas Prinzgintas and his wife Manon invited me to take part in their concert series. I jumped at the chance to celebrate my homecoming in music.
My friend Lars Edegran and I put together a quartet for the occasion. Manon had said we could play any style of music we wanted, but we decided on a program based on hymns and spirituals. Not only did religious music seem most appropriate for the venue, but it gave us a chance to pay tribute to one of our favorite musicians: clarinetist George Lewis, whose legendary albums “Jazz at Vespers” and “George Lewis Plays Hymns” had shown how beautifully this music could be played by a traditional New Orleans jazz group.
In addition to Lars on piano and myself on clarinet, we called on guitarist/banjoist Seva Venet and bassist Tom Saunders to fill out the quartet for the first concert in October 2007. Tom was replaced by Nobu Ozaki at our 2008 concert, but joined us again in 2009. This compilation, recorded live by Pete Wolbrette, pulls together the best performances from those three concerts. It provides a variety of hymns and spirituals ranging from stately anthems like “Abide With Me” and “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” to up-tempo foot-tappers like “At the Cross” and “Sing On.” The warm resonance of Trinity’s acoustics gives a special richness to the sound. We look forward to return performances at Trinity, and perhaps more CD’s down the line. Meanwhile, we hope this album will give you some sense of the musical joy we shared at these concerts.
© 2012 Thomas A. Sancton