Gospel met jazz at a Saturday night show inside a Germantown church

Pews were filled with people clapping their hands and bobbing their heads to the rhythmic melodies of the Joey Harrison Group and Bryant Pugh Band during Saturday night’s “Gospel Meets Jazz” concert at Canaan Baptist Church in Germantown.

Harrison said he was impressed by the performance of Canaan’s children’s choir when they sang with the band which features a piano, saxophone, bass guitar, drums, Congo drums and singer.

“All of us are Christians. It just happens to work and we have a good time,” said Joey Harrison Group pianist and musical director Kendrah Butler. “I’m really blessed with being with really humble people, and there isn’t a competition kind of thing. The musicians that I’ve worked with have been gracious, which is rare.”

From West Oak Lane to Germantown

On the second Sunday of each month, the band plays at Platinum Grill in West Oak Lane. This week, they came to Germantown where the church’s Umoja Choir and The Bryant Pugh Band featuring Cedric Napoleon were also on the bill.

“I think music has a way of reaching people regardless of where they are in their faith,” Butler said. “So when we play at Platinum Grill, there is a mix of folks. Some people just walk off the street and they want to hear our music.”

R&B, gospel and jazz singer Shamika Byrd subbed in for Aisha Brooks Lytle to sing “Open Up My Heart” and “Duke’s Caravan” with the Joey Harrison Group.

“Jazz is so freeing,” Byrd said. “There’s really no constraint. There’s a format, but you can really bend it, twist it, rearrange it and do all kinds of things with it. You can sing without words. You can scat, so it’s fun.”

She continued in saying, “With gospel, I think I got free grooming because I was praise-and-worship leader at my church. And so, making mistakes, finding my way, singing songs, rearranging and being in front of people, I didn’t realize the training I was getting.”

Crowd reaction

Mary Thompson has been a member of Canaan Baptist Church since 1970.

She brought her two teenage grandsons to the concert to expose them to both jazz and gospel music.

“I appreciate jazz, but usually don’t go for jazz,” Thompson said. “But this is nice. I really enjoyed tonight.”

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