Music sets stage for deeper conversation in Austin

By Carol E. Barnwell
Posted Jun 13, 2013

The Rev. Merrill Wade (L) listens as Jeff Lofton (R) answers a question.

[Episcopal Diocese of Texas] The smooth trumpet of Jeff Lofton filled the local eatery near St. Matthew’s in northwest Austin on June 9. It was the 15th offering of Soul of a Musician, a collaboration of St. Matthew’s and Spicewood Tavern, just across the street from the church.

The series is designed to provide a more intimate musical encounter with some of Austin’s finest musicians. It provides a unique setting in which to discover a deeper meaning to the themes of the music as well as to support musicians and their gifts to the community and the church.

Introducing the evening’s performers, the Rev. Merrill Wade told his audience that the series is meant to offer hospitality and encourage conversation. He prompted Lofton with a few questions about the origins of jazz.

“Jazz is the music of free people, developed after the turn of the (20th) century, by people who had never been slaves,” Lofton explained, in contrast to the Blues, which came from a less sophisticated environment and originated within the slave society in the South, “simplistic, beautiful at the same time.”

Between soulful numbers, Lofton, backed by Grammy-winning drummer Ernie Durawa and Pat Harris on bass, bantered with Wade, talking about the sense of interplay between musicians in the free-flowing, more improvised pieces, and their reading of the audience’s response.

“There’s nothing like jazz music to teach us how to live,” Wade said, remarking on the relationships the music creates.

An audience member asked what the church had to do with the evening and Wade explained that St. Matthew’s was paying for the musicians, firstly. “God talks with music,” he added. “Friends gather from the neighborhood and touch each others’ lives in unique ways … How many times do you gather to ‘feel the spirit,’ to feel the jazz move you?”

Jeff Lofton on horn, Grammy winner Ernie Durawa on drums, and Pat Harris on bass.

Jeff Lofton on horn, Grammy winner Ernie Durawa on drums, and Pat Harris on bass.

Wade spoke of musicians and the depth of their creativity. “What you do matters to God. There is no jazz without God,” he said. “It takes a higher power to inspire that level of creativity,” he added, leaving the questioner nodding his head and having another sip of beer.

Durawa took the microphone to punctuate the conversation with a bit of Scripture: “Remember First Timothy,” he said, quoting, “Do not neglect the gift that is in you.”

Wade has a deep interest in the local music scene in Austin, and participates in South by Southwest (SXSW) offering a seminar at the annual international music gathering in Austin. St. Matthew’s also supports local musicians by hosting an annual Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (H.A.A.M) Benefit Day Concert. H.A.A.M. is a community partner of the Soul of a Musician Series.