The Fourth of July weekend ended on a high note with an evening of jazz gospel performed Sunday by the Jazz Chronicles at the Salem Lutheran Church of Glendale. The concert was the kickoff for the church’s Coffeehouse summer series to benefit its Mexico Mission project.
The sunset fundraiser attracted an impressively large crowd that expanded from the front doors of the church to the parking lot and sidewalk along Brand Boulevard.
Keyboardist Dave Siebels pulled the band together, aided by the Music Committee of the church. A La Crescenta resident, Siebels received his bachelor’s degree in music education from Cal State Fullerton. He is a composer, arranger, keyboardist and record producer who has arranged and produced 25 albums, scored 35 films and conducted 65 musical variety television shows, and even recording with such notable artists as Rita Coolidge, Ray Charles, BB King and extensively with Pat Boone.
Eyvonne Williams was breathtaking in voice and appearance in the opening song, “Sweeter than the Day Before.” With an awesome vocal delivery who handled the lion’s share of the evening, Williams has worked as backup singer with Barbra Streisand, Rod Stewart and Barry Manilow, and can easily count up to 100 movie soundtracks on her résumé.
Her display of complete vocal confidence and command was made repeatedly evident, and certainly during her performance of “He is Our Living Savior.” Her range and delivered-upon targets were nothing shy of Grammy-winning precision.
The other members, all equally talented, were Michael George on bass, Randy Drake on drums, Ed Smart on saxophone and Buddy Nuanez on guitar. The band was as comfortably dressed as the crowd, mostly Hawaiian shirts, which seemed perfectly in line with the summer weather.
There was no shortage of head-nodding and hand-clapping during many of the songs, especially the playful sway and hop that went with “Yes Lord.”
The recipient of all the good will and good music was Mexico Mission, a charity set up by Salem Lutheran Church, which takes a group of church members down to Mexico to build a home for the most impoverished families. It is the job of the Lutheran Border Concern to distinguish which families are in the greatest of need, and the church provides the building materials and person-power to erect a residence, which is usually done within a short period of time given that as many as 30 members of the church can go down on a single mission.
Gospel jazz has taken a springboard leap into the mainstream of music listening. From stylized hymns to originals, there is plenty out there for music enthusiasts. The Jazz Chronicles serve just such a movement, very well it should be noted, and contribute an interesting and contemporary twist to songs that might otherwise be delivered in a conventional fashion.
The fusion that Siebels describes as “Jazzpel” brings a freshness to praise and worship in an exciting and upbeat manner, which can easily be experienced on their latest album and can be purchased through thejazzchronicles.com.
Siebels has another CD out that was released May 12 where he collaborated with Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band and consisted of a 19-piece orchestra. The CD is currently No. 50 on the jazz charts and continues to make brisk sales.
Closing the evening, which came all too soon, was the colorful and life-filled “America the Beautiful,” performed with a gusto and passion that created not just a memorable moment, but a night that will not soon be forgotten. Especially for the next family in Mexico, desperately in need of a new home.
MICHAEL BOLGER is a freelance arts writer, most recently working for the San Diego Community News Group covering the La Jolla Contemporary Museum of Art, La Jolla Playhouse and San Diego Music Center. MICHAEL BOLGER is a freelance arts writer, most recently working for the San Diego Community News Group covering the La Jolla Contemporary Museum of Art, La Jolla Playhouse and San Diego Music Center.