Jazz has roots in the gospel music of the black church. The musical and liturgical traditions of Anglo religions are quite different. But Malou Sawders has found a way to bring jazz and Episcopal liturgy together under a single Higher Power. On Feb. 26 at 7 p.m., local jazzmen Charles McPherson, Mike Wofford and Gunnar Biggs will help Sawders and the choir at All Souls Episcopal Church in Point Loma present her original composition. She will sing musical themes, then the players will improvise on them. The church choir will interweave choral chants.
Sawders, who has a music degree in organ playing from San Diego State, was inspired by James Weldon Johnson's book "God's Trombones" to create the liturgy. During three years as a jazz pianist and vocalist in Tokyo, she realized the United States would be the only place to find an appropriate setting and players for her production. All Souls Choir Director Bob Thompson heard about Sawders' idea and eventually hired her to produce one of several experimental liturgies the church plans to present this year.
"I consider (McPherson, Wofford and Biggs) the most sensitive musicians in the area, sensitive to music and sensitive to life," Sawders said in explaining her choices for the program. "All three have gentle souls."
Sawders had hoped KSDS-FM (88.3), the San Diego City College jazz station, might air the liturgy on the radio. The station suggested a studio taping, but warned her that some of the religious language might be edited out. So, she's looking for other options.
Competition is heating up on the Lites Out Jazz circuit, started by KIFM (98.1) and deejay Art Good when he was still with the station. KIFM presents Lites Out music at a different San Diego club each night. Good moved over to KSWV-FM (102.9) last fall, and the Catamaran, one of the original and most successful outlets for Lites Out jazz, has decided to follow him, switching the promotional tie-in for its Wednesday shows--and its radio ad budget--from KIFM to KSWV.
Catamaran General Manager George Harrington wouldn't confirm that KIFM begged his Cannibal Bar not to make the change, but it sounds like the station tried hard to come up with a sweeter agreement. KSWV's lower ad rates may have been a key element in the deal, and the chance to hook up again with Good was obviously the clincher.
"I consider Art to be the jazz authority, the originator of Lites Out jazz, the guru of jazz in San Diego," Harrington said. "We didn't jump right in when he moved to KSWV last October. But The Wave is making a big push, as you've noticed on TV, with their spots on the three affiliates, along with billboards. We're taking a chance, breaking away from the pack, but I think it's a pretty good chance."
Right now, the Catamaran's Cannibal Bar hosts the only "Wave Jazz Nite," but Harrington said KSWV hopes to add at least two more nights to its new jazz circuit. Meanwhile, KIFM is looking for a replacement club. "We're having a good time entertaining offers," said KIFM Promotions Director Steve Huntington, adding that a North County or Mission Valley club might make a good addition to the Lites Out lineup.
San Diego Padres' pitcher Eric Show's new album "America . . . 4/4 To Go" previewed during a special 90-minute version of KIFM's "San Diego Spotlight" show Sunday night. It's available in Wherehouse music stores, the Guitar Exchange in San Diego and the American Opinion Bookstore at Utah Street and El Cajon Boulevard. The album includes four songs by guitarist Show and compositions by local musicians Joe Marillo, Bob Magnusson and Joe Azarello, who help back him.
Show did the original sessions early last year, but only recently got into the studio to overdub guitar parts on a couple of tracks not recorded quite right the first time. He said astute listeners will be able to pick out the additions. "It was my first album, and there are a lot of things you learn. You have to go through that, learning the ropes."
The pitcher's version of "America the Beautiful" is his favorite cut, and he expects it might be a candidate for local radio play. With baseball season rolling around, he doesn't have much time for live gigs, but may turn up unannounced from time to time to jam with some of his musician friends.
Show has also formed his own music company. Among the projects he's pursuing are a comeback album by jazz guitarist Pat Martino and a new recording featuring drummer Chico Hamilton.
SHORT RIFFS: Jazz pianist Shep Meyers plays Croce's Wednesday nights through March in a band featuring Tony Ortega on sax, Dick Lopez on drums and Dave Marr on bass. . . . San Diego jazz flute player Holly Hofmann celebrates the release of her first album, "Take Note," tonight through Saturday night at Diego's Loft. She'll be doing material from the album, and copies will be for sale. Hofmann plans to start recording a new album in a quintet including trombonist Slide Hampton in April. . . . Fattburger's "Living in Paradise" album, now No. 14 on Billboard's contemporary jazz chart after 17 weeks, had sold about 40,000 copies by the end of last year. It peaked at No. 8. The album is the second in the top 10 for the band, a strong follow-up to the earlier "Good News" album. . . . Sax man Hollis Gentry's plays Croce's every Monday night at 8 through March with his acoustic quartet.