William “Bill” Miller, the Rector of Christ Church, Covington, LA loves Jazz. He has launched jazz festivals at churches in Texas and Hawaii (that are still going) and this year marks the third annual Jazz in January festival hosted by Christ Church.
This year’s festival has drawn prominent artists from all over, including Cuban pianist Aldo López-Gavilán backed by Houston-based saxophonist/singer David Caceres and local pianist Matt Lemmler, drummer Jamison Ross and bassist James Singleton.
Saturday night will be “A Celebration of Women In Jazz” featuring French jazz vocalist Cyrille Aimée, Cuban drummer Yissy Garcia, New York pianist Deanna Witkowski and local vocalist Leah Chase, bassist Amina Scott and saxophonist Aurora Nealand.
“Jazz In January” concludes Sunday morning with two jazz Mass tributes to Mary Lou Williams, the prolific jazz pianist and composer who wrote and arranged material for Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman.
“It’s not the usual service with jazz music tacked on,” Miller said of the Mass. “We really integrate the artist and the artist’s story, and try to pick hymns and service music that reflect the whole of what we’re doing.”
In a Facebook post, Miller said;
For many years I have hoped to celebrate the music of Mary Lou Williams in a Jazz Mass. This Sunday, at 9:00 and 11:30, that dream is finally realized! Here is her description of the origins of Jazz: “From suffering came the African-American spiritual, songs of joy, and songs of sorrow. The main origin of American Jazz is spiritual. Because of the deeply religious background of the African-American, he was able to mix this strong influence with rhythms that reached deep enough into the inner self to give expression to outcries of sincere joy, which became known as Jazz.”
Last year Miller embarked on an epic road trip, the “Last Howlelujah Tour,” with his beloved Nawiliwili “Wili” Nelson, a twelve year old terrier mix who had terminal cancer. The 15 city tour to support animal welfare charities raised over $10,000.