On the warm evening of May 5th, 2007, the trees of Central Park grew long shadows as a crowd filed into the Ethical Culture Society across the street. The occasion was â€œHeaven in a Nightclubâ€â€”a benefit concert for Chesterton House, a Center for Christian Studies at Cornell University. Few people, I imagine, knew what they were getting into.
As Master of Ceremonies Andy Crouch introduced it, going to â€œHeavenâ€ is much more than just attending a concert, itâ€™s a journey. A journey of music and history in which the deep misery and deep hope of African-Americans emerges through spirituals, jazz, ragtime, gospel, and blues. Indeed, the usual boundaries between concert, lecture, worship service andâ€”I dare sayâ€”spiritual experience, soon were happily blurred.
The first three tracks introduce us to Joeâ€™s mellifluous sax, Billâ€™s unusual combination of musicianship and scholarship, and Ruthâ€™s angelic vocals, all undergirded by Johnâ€™s virtuoso bass, later highlighted on â€œJesus is on the Mainline.â€ But it was during â€œMotherless Childâ€ that I first noticed people crying, and during which I think most of us realized this was no ordinary concert.
Having been transported by Ruthâ€™s climactic vocals on â€œCome Sundayâ€ to a place where sorrow is dissolved by joy, â€œLay my Burden Downâ€ served as a benediction of sorts, facilitating our return from the journey back to the world of time and space. â€œWade in the Water,â€ a second encore that even I did not expect, was the musiciansâ€™ parting gift to all who came.
The concert experience was, as one person put it, â€œbeyond spectacular.â€ May this recording, which captures the sound and spirit of this stunning event extremely well, give you great joy, as well as a window into the mission and vision of the Chesterton House ministry.
Karl E. Johnson
Chesterton House Director
DR. WILLIAM EDGAR, educated at Harvard University, Westminster Theological Seminary, and UniversitÃ© de GenÃ¨ve, is Professor of Philosophical Apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary and the author of several books. Also a pianist and popular conference speaker, his articles on the history of jazz and blues include "Ain't it Hard: Suffering and Hope in the Blues," and "The Deep Joy of Jazz."
RUTH NAOMI FLOYD is an acclaimed vocalist-composer and recording artist of several CDs, including Root to the Fruit and Fan Into Flame. "My appreciation for gospel singers has always begun and ended with Mahalia Jackson--until, that is, I heard Ruth Naomi Floyd's Fan Into Flame." -Christopher Louden, Jazz Times. "Ruth Naomi Floyd's artistry eliminates the need to choose between the sonic pleasure of jazz and the timeless message of the Gospel. Her work is the future." -Teresa L. Reed, author, The Holy Profane: Religion in Black Popular Music.
JOHN PATITUCCI is one of the leading jazz bassists in the world, having been selected as Best Jazz Bassist in both Guitar Player Magazine and Bass Player Magazine multiple times. He has received two Grammy Awards (one for playing and one for composing), over fifteen Grammy nominations, and his first solo recording went to number one on the Billboard Jazz charts. He has played and recorded with B.B. King, Chick Corea, Dizzy Gillespie, Sting, Wynton Marsalis, Carly Simon and others. In 2003, John was appointed Associate Professor of Jazz Studies at City College.
JOE SALZANO has been a professional musician and composer for 35 years, teaching and performing on saxophone and clarinet. In January 2000, while at Canton-Potsdam Hospital Drug & Alcohol Rehab, Joe received Jesus Christ and was set free from lifelong alcohol and drug addiction, as well as miraculously healed of a fatal liver disease. As a result of his faith in Christ, his musical direction has changed dramatically and has met its purpose in glorifying God and passing on to the next generation a commitment to artistic passion, integrity, and freedom.
All proceeds from the sale of this CD go to support the operations of the Chesterton House ministry.