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Music

Concert organized by trumpeter Sean Jones to explore gospel-jazz symbiosis

| Wednesday, May 18, 2016, 9:00 p.m.
Trumpeter Sean Jones, a former Duquesne University professor, now oversees brass studies at Berklee School of Music in Boston.
Mack Avenue
Trumpeter Sean Jones, a former Duquesne University professor, now oversees brass studies at Berklee School of Music in Boston.

Sean Jones says he is finally getting a chance to put together a concert that always was on his mind during his days in Pittsburgh.

“But you just can't do it all,” the busy trumpeter says with a laugh.

But now he has put together a band — and vocal group — for a look at gospel music's relationship to jazz May 20 at the August Wilson Center, Downtown.

The concert will be a two-part examination of gospel and jazz, he says. The first half will be a look at the music by a quintet Jones has assembled for the gig; the second will feature the quintet, but with a six-piece vocal group, Impact.

The quintet is made up of Jones, saxophonist Tim Green, drummer James Johnson III, bassist Tony DePaolis and pianist Alton Merrell.

The vocal group was put together by Merrell, who is director of worship ministries at Allegheny Center Alliance Church in the North Side.

Jones says this examination of two forms of music is something he and Merrell have wanted to do for a while.

They both grew up in the Warren, Ohio, area and sometimes were involved in religious activities “eight days a week,” Jones says, so putting together a look at the interrelationship of jazz and gospel is a natural thing.

“But when I was in Pittsburgh, there always seemed like a lot to do,” he says. “There was the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra, my group, classes, other gigs. It's nice to get the chance to do this.”

Jones spent 10 years here, teaching at Duquesne University, but he also was one of the founders of the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra, was touring internationally with his band and sitting in seemingly constantly at gigs at local clubs.

He now is head of brass studies at the jazz-oriented Berklee School of Music in Boston but still is involved with the jazz orchestra here, as well as his own touring schedule.

He is excited at having the chance to come into Pittsburgh simply to focus on this concert.

Gospel has contributed a great deal to jazz in its soulfulness and heart, he says. But at the same time, jazz returns the favor by giving gospel a little contemporary feel.

The concert will look at that symbiosis, he says, in pieces such as Jones' arrangement of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

“It will be a nice mix of the two,” he says. “It will kind of show the unity, the oneness, of everything.”

While the vocal group has been working on its material, the quintet won't be getting together until the day before the show.

Jones is confident the group will work well together.

“You can't rehearse the unknown,” he says, quoting sax giant Wayne Shorter.

Bob Karlovits is a Trib Total Media contributing writer.

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