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German composer, guest musicians join faculty for gospel-jazz fusion

Brad LealiThe College of Music will present Gospel Meets Jazz: A Black History Celebration at 5 p.m. Feb. 17 in the Music Building, Voertman Hall.

Led by jazz saxophone professor Brad Leali, above, the Brad Leali Jazz Orchestra will perform original arrangements by guest pianist and composer/arranger Claus Raible, together with a gospel choir organized by Jennifer Barnes, director of the UNT Jazz Singers.

The free concert, a collaboration of students, faculty and guests, aims to illustrate the ways music can bring people together, help solidify a community and tell stories that allow people to empathize with the experiences of others, Leali said. “We’re bringing a message of unity and strength, sending a positive message and combining the two genres of gospel and jazz,” Leali said. “The roots of jazz can be found in gospel music.”

The program includes songs by both jazz and gospel musicians including John Coltrane, Duke Pearson, Kirk Franklin and Leali himself. Raible arranged the music for jazz ensemble and gospel choir, and will travel from Germany for the concert.

Claus Raible, pianist and composer; photo by Jan Scheffner“When you think of gospel music, you typically don’t think of a German influence, but I want to expose everyone to the fact that where you’re from is not the only thing that matters. It has to do with what’s in your heart, your sense of passion and your integrity,” Leali said.

Raible, right, has been working on the arrangements for about a year, said Leali, who has spent a number of years refining this concert program that was originally presented at a Texas Music Educators Association convention in 2007.

Four of the works include an accompaniment by a choir of 25 to 30 College of Music students, including members of the UNT Jazz Singers ensemble and other vocal students, conducted by Barnes.

“The vocals will act as instruments, in a way,” Barnes said. “We won’t be singing lyrics some of the time, instead we’ll add to the texture of the instruments. Other times, we’ll use lyrics that come from traditional, African American gospel music.”

It’s important to bring reminders of civil rights struggles to younger generations, Leali said. Incorporating students in this performance is an integral part of their education – just as integral as learning in a classroom setting, he said.

“Most of our students know something of the history, but that’s different than singing the music and feeling that tie to history. It’s one thing to learn about it in jazz history class, it’s another to bring that music to life,” Barnes said.

Several guests will also take the stage during the concert, including pastor Cory Powell, who will speak, and vocalist Darius Luckey, both from Lubbock; as well as pianist Arlington Jones, artistic director of the Sammons Center for the Arts, Dallas.

A slideshow will play images of significant events from the civil rights movement of the 1960s. By combining the genres of gospel and jazz with a visual representation of moments from black history, Leali hopes others will learn not only about the music, but about the historical significance of Black History Month and those who fought for civil rights. 

- Margarita Venegas, News Promotions

(Claus Raible photo by Jan Scheffner)

Posted on: Thu 07 February 2013

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