January 16, 2001
All that Jazz
By Eric Rangus firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the highlights of Emorys King Week celebration is the jazz vespers service to be held in Cannon Chapel, Thursday, Jan. 18. Featured on saxophone, flute and clarinet will be Dwight Andrews, associate professor of music.
But Thursdays performance only scratches the surface of Andrews
King was a great lover of jazz, but we always think of jazz in
a secular concert or smoky club framework, said Andrews, who is
not only an Emory professor but also an ordained minister at Atlantas
First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ.
In fact, we know that many of the great jazz masters had spiritual
and religious interests of all types. The vespers is really a way to bring
all of these things together into one activity to celebrate the music
that we love and is uniquely American.
Sitting in with Andrews in his jazz quintet will be: Gary Motley (piano),
Moffett Morris (bass), Jacques Lesure (guitar) and Jimmy Jackson (drums).
Morris works at Woodruff Library, and Motley teaches jazz improv in the
Vocalist Kathleen Bertrand and the Atlanta Community Jazz
Chorus will also be featured.
We do so much around Emory for King Week, Andrews
said. If were not careful, I think people will sometimes take
it for granted and it will just become part of the ritual.
This church became very well known as an independent
black congregation that helped folks come from the country into the city
and get on their feet, Andrews said. We, in a sense, have
for the last 130 years been trying to maintain that kind of socially progressive
It is affiliated with the United Church of Christ, a relatively
young Protestant denomination that came into being in 1957 with the union
of the Evangelical and Reformed Church and Congregational Christian Churches.
Not only is Andrews First Congregationals senior minister,
former United Nations Ambassador and Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young also is
a minister there. In fact, it was from the churchs pulpit that Young
spoke recently about whether Georgia should keep the Confederate battle
flag as part of the Georgia state flag.
Radiating a beauty that transcends its age, the sound in
the church sanctuarywhich was built in 1908is so pristine,
the acoustics so perfect, that the melody of Andrews practicing his sax
from across the church reaches listeners ears as though he is standing
right next to them.
I wanted to be a rock and roll musician. I came out of the Jimi Hendrix generation, so I had the afro out to here, Andrews said, crowning his hands about six inches above his close-cropped head. My best friends dad was a Congregational minister, and my rock and roll band rehearsed in the church basement. So it was impossible not to see the work that was going on in his life even while I was learning the Temptations and Rare Earth.
After earning bachelors and masters degrees at the University of Michigan, the Detroit native entered seminary school at Yale. To make money on the side, he played club gigs in New York.
Eventually Andrews earned a masters of divinity and
then a Ph.D. in music theory. He also served at campus chaplain at Yale
for almost 10 years.
At Emory, Andrews may be best known for his history of jazz
class, but this semester he will be revisiting a course he last taught
at YaleSacred Music in the United States.
People think of black sacred music as being one thing,
Andrews said. In fact, it is many things because there are so many
different traditions within the African American community.
Andrews intends to take the class to several churches around
the area to experience the roles music plays in their worship.
One of his focuses will be writing. Andrews already has
a strong background in producing scores for films and the stage (including
August Wilsons Pulitzer Prize-winning play, The Piano Lesson).
Andrews was also awarded a three-year fellowship from Meet the Composer,
an artistic support organization, to develop some music theater work.
I [also] will be doing a lot more community-based
presenting around arts and culture, because I think this is one of the
ways you can really help build communities.
His most recent activity was a panel discussion that took
place at the church, Sunday, Jan. 14, regarding documentary filmmaker
Ken Burns new work Jazz. The discussion explored the ideas
of documentaries as history, the power of the media to make history and
myth, and the role of race in the equation.
Andrews co-hosted the event with Joe Jennings of Spelman
College, and panelists included Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist
Tom Teepen, filmmaker Louis Massiah, musicologist Stephen Christ, composer
Alvin Singleton and historian Michael Gomez.
Discussing Burns film a couple days before the panel
took place fired Andrews upnot about what Burns says, but what he
I am really struck and troubled in some ways by the
documentary, Andrews said. It is an incredibly beautiful story,
but I think what goes unstated is the way in which [jazzs] very
being speaks to the way in which racism works in our country. So I want
that to be a community discussion, not one that just ruminates in my head.
Its not a slam against Ken Burns, but if you
watch that documentary carefully, it is so skillfully done that jazz becomes
a wonderful metaphor for what he would like us to think is America. It
becomes a kind of metaphor for democracykind of an egalitarian coming
together for the way in which we of different races and different backgrounds
and different ethnicities rallied around this liberating music. Well,
thats absolutely true on one level, but the flipside is that this
is a music that was forged because of the racism [of the times].
This could not happen were it not for racism and Jim
Crow and segregation and slavery and an economic system in which black
musicians could only participate in certain places.
Somewhat humorously, Andrews added that he had already bought
the $150 video collection of the documentary. Andrews said Burns
film will become part of jazzs history, and he hoped to start a
dialogue on what that means.
This is a wonderful time for new conversations and new reflections, and thats what Im hoping Ill be a catalyst for.