I sat in one of the back pews of the Lincoln Memorial United Methodist Church for the Celestial Jazz Series being presented by the Pappy Martin Legacy Jazz Collective. A confession that the social distancing recommendations due to the coronavirus and the anxiety we are all feeling hung over me like a dark cloud. The anxiety dissipated as soon as the music began.
The concert was a benefit for the rebirthed Love Supreme School of Music the collective is bringing back to life. Started by the late Pappy Martin, the school is designed to continue the legacy and commitment of teaching our youth the science of music. Especially that of jazz music. With the noted intention of improving overall academic performance at the same time.
The concert began with members of the Love Supreme School of Music faculty performing a tune. No doubt, the music of jazz in a church setting was what those in attendance needed after a harrowing week of news and cancellations related to the public health crisis. Momentarily, we were able to suspend ourselves into the beauty of jazz music.
Ernest Dawkins was introduced and I wondered where he would go with his music. His musical style is a penchant to dive into the realm of free jazz. A bastion of the Chicago jazz scene. Perhaps sensing the mood of the audience and the impact of the news the past several days, Dawkins gave us music centered on the uniting power of bebop jazz. Instead of the frenetics of free jazz, he steered the audience into handclapping jazz.
This did not diminish his powerful display of musical strength on the saxophone. Dawkins pushes boundaries in his playing; stretching notes to extremes. A rare ability to create jaw-dropping moments, whether they were on alto or tenor saxophone. Which, Dawkins treated the audience to both. The church setting truly providing a celestial atmosphere for Dawkins and the trio backing him up.
The evening ended with the Love Supreme School of Music faculty and guests coming on stage to do a final number with Ernest Dawkins. A united moment in time basking in the joy of the music we call jazz.
I am sure it was a difficult decision, with the sudden spate of cancellations, to go ahead with the concert. While social distancing was literally practiced in every pew, the concert gave us a safe haven to relish in the music of jazz for a couple of hours.
A celestial experience most welcomed in times like these.