Holy rollin': Taking the masters to church

John D'earth and Kait Duntan (Soulful Sundown Series)
at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church
Sunday, May 8

Friday night I prowl'd. There was music happening around town, but nothing was grabbing my attention. Saturday night I prowl'd. Again the same thing. I was looking for inspiration. Even though there was good music worth reviewing (and bad music worth trashing) nothing was inspiring me to write.

Sunday rolled around. The weather couldn't have been more perfect for Mother's Day. Time with family was refreshing. As day turned to evening, my wife and I searched for something to do to cap off the day. Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church was hosting Soulful Sundown featuring John D'earth. We figured we'd give it a try. I've seen John D'earth perform many times at bars and at the University, but never in a church. The combination was intriguing. Not to mention, what better way to find inspiration than listening to jazz in church?

Inspiration it was indeed. For as long as I can remember, music has given me a feeling of spiritual euphoria unlike anything else. The first time I heard KRS-1 or Marvin Gaye or John Coltrane, I knew there was something more than just notes going on.

There I sat in a church, on a Sunday, with a minister who not only acknowledge the spirituality of "secular" music, but who welcomed it into his sanctuary. Johnny D, accompanied by the elegant Kait Duntan on piano, played Coltrane in a way that I never imagined I'd hear. The trumpet and piano rang through the sanctuary like they were designed to be played there. Duntan stroked the keys as if she were possessed.

This was not an ordinary jazz concert. Before the duet even played a note, and throughout the set, people read excerpts from writings discussing the spirituality of jazz music. Yes, I was definitely at a concert, but I was also smack in the middle of a church service that was honoring the music we were hearing in a religious way. The experience was so foreign– and yet, so right.

D'earth chose songs that illustrated various types of spirituality in jazz. The evening climaxed when he instructed the congregation/audience to chant the words "love supreme" while he and Duntan played the Coltrane song of the same name. Though I've listened to "Love Supreme" hundreds of times, the hymnal quality of the music had never been apparent.

I give it up to the people at TJMC who put together the Soulful Sundown series. It is truly a blessing in more ways than one– and inspirational in more ways that can be described in words.

John D'earth