In preparation for the concert, several sound engineers with the band spent all afternoon tuning the sound at St Ambrose for the very different acoustic characteristics. As a result, the sound was clear and one could clearly hear the professional skill of the musicians: David S Halliday on saxophone, Courtney Smith on piano (the musical arrangements being done by these two musicians), Denson Angulo on bass, and Steve Lyman on drums. It was a good reminder that the success of an endeavor often depends on work being done 'behind the scenes.
The music was introduced and narrated by David R Halliday, who had hosted a jazz radio program in California for years. Dr Halliday's skillful, brief introductions to the jazz repertoire interwoven with quotations from the Bible, Pope Benedict XVI, and the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins provided a good example of how the Church forms Christendom by engaging the secular culture. As the eastern orthodox theologian, David Bentley Hart, has pointed out it is precisely the lack of faithful engagement to generate a Christian culture that often characterizes American religiosity, to the detriment of both Church and State.
While the musician's solos drew the most applause, to this non-trained ear the foundation of the Jazz Vespers Band's excellence is built upon the tight harmony between David Halliday's saxophone and Courtney Smith's piano. I made a couple of low quality videos: here is Courtney Smith's arrangement of Let It Be and here is the band's encore performance of Just A Closer Walk With Thee (both recorded on my iPhone). Other songs performed were: Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho, Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child/Rock My Soul, Coltrane's Dear Lord, Shorter's Infant Eyes, and Hammerstein's Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise.