Jazz History Online

Thomas Cunniffe

The mixture of sacred music and jazz is not a new idea, but rarely has the mix worked as well as on Will Scruggs’ new Christmas suite, “Song of Simeon”. Based on a collection of contemporary and traditional carols, Scruggs offers a perfect balance between religion and improvisation, keeping the focus on the traditional Nativity story but still allowing extended solos.

Scruggs (tenor and soprano sax) features his post-bop sextet Jazz Fellowship throughout: Brian Hogans (piano), Dan Baraszu (guitar), Tommy Sauter (bass), Marlon Patton (drums) and Kinah Boto Ayah (percussion). He augments the group with a 8-piece horn ensemble on several tracks and adds guest trumpeter Joe Gransden on the first part’s closer, “Go Down Moses”. Although this is a completely instrumental composition, Scruggs wisely included the lyrics to each piece within the liner notes, which helps the listener follow the various treatments of the familiar story. Based in Atlanta, Scruggs deserves nationwide attention for this superb fusion of theology and music.

Jazz History Online: Music for a Cool Yule