Durham is a great jazz city. North Carolina is rich soil for its homegrown roots, nurtured by a canopy of jazz education (and appreciation) that stretches across the state.
Local diva Lois DeLoatch sang a gem of a concert on Friday night at the Hayti Heritage Center to release her new CD of jazz spirituals, Hymn to Freedom: Homage to Oscar Peterson.
Backing her were performance faculty from Eastern Carolina University-Greenville and UNC-Chapel Hill, as well as the deans of both Duke and North Carolina Central's jazz programs. Dr. Ira Wiggins (NCCU) played saxophones and flute, John V. Brown (Duke), upright acoustic bass, Ernest Turner (ECU), piano, and Thomas Taylor (NCCU, UNC), drums.
St. Joseph's Performance Hall is literally a sanctuary. As Taylor notes, the intimate hall has the shape and acoustics of a drum. That natural resonance suits DeLoatch's bluesy, low registers and sweet, pliant highs. Her voice was a dancer on traditional spirituals like "This Little Light of Mine," and melodies she cast lyrics to, making them her own, like Bobby Timmons' "Moanin' (Prayer)" and Oscar Peterson's "Hymn to Freedom."
The ensemble had opened the concert cold with a stunning instrumental, "In a Sentimental Mood." With the ease of dropping change into a jukebox, they instantly changed the atmosphere to an after hours nostalgia, abetted by Turner's Peterson-evoking touches on piano and Taylor's perpetualism on the brush and snare. Although DeLoatch singled out Wiggins' soprano sax playing, it was his flute playing that really captured my attention. Would be interesting to hear his warm, woody tone and intriguing improvisations go head to head with an Eddy Zervignon or an Andrea Brachfeld in a charanga setting.
One by one, DeLoatch conversed with the instrumentalists in a series of duets. This predilection comes, she says, from her background in a rural church on the Virginia/North Carolina border, where musical accompaniment was minimal and strictly come as you are. DeLoatch's family was in attendance, as were members of the many other 'families' in which she plays a community leadership role as a fundraiser and volunteer, among these: top Duke administrators, St. Joseph's Historic Foundation board members, and the 90.7 FM WNCU radio staff.
Concert proceeds benefitted the St. Joseph's Historic Foundation. DeLoatch's CD is available at Amazon and CD baby.
More live gigs featuring the participants of Friday's show are coming up soon: Sunday night (8/24), Thomas Taylor plays with the sax-led Brian Horton Trio at the new 202 Art Gallery Lounge across from Southpoint. And next Thursday (8/28) at the American Tobacco Complex, John Brown takes his Groove Shop out for a walk. Rather than his usual straight ahead jazz, Brown straps on an electric bass with the Groove Shop to play classic funk and R&B, so come prepared to boogie to Stevie Wonder, Sly, The Gap Band and Earth Wind & Fire.
See the Onda Carolina events calendar for more info.