A Gospel Christmas In New York City


There’s no place like New York City during the holidays. It’s the most festive time of the year; the world famous Christmas trees at Rockefeller Center is ablaze with thousands of bright colored lights, as is the breathtakingly beautiful Christmas tree at Lincoln Center; Fifth and Madison Avenue stores mount extravagantly imaginative fantasy windows; building lobbies are festooned with whimsical decorations, and huge electrified stars hang from the ceiling of the Time Warner Center.

It is also the time of emotional Christmas celebrations that inspire even the most devout scrooges to clap their hands and stomp their feet to the rhythms and magic of great gospel jazz. Last Saturday, I shared the joy of “Christmas songs with a gospel heart”; it was an electrifying evening in the Allen Room of Jazz at Lincoln Center with Kim Burrell, Grammy Award Nominee and Stellar Award winner “whose love for ministry and music has propelled her to be a great success in the world, with the help of the Lord”. Leon Lacey, a multi-talented conductor, arranger and composer, who worked with Michael Jackson on the 30th Anniversary of Madison Square Garden, led Kim, the choir and orchestra, through a medley of holiday favorites musical director Damien Sneed had rearranged, including: “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen “, “Little Drummer Boy”, Joy to the World”, “Silent Night”, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and a holiday version of George Gershwin’s Summertime”. Leon seemed to take flight as his body, and his baton, moved fluidly in sync with the vocals and instruments; the impact of the gospel arrangements and Kim’s wide range of emotions and timber strategies brought the enthusiastic audience to their feet more than once.

Since her first solo project, “Try Me Again”, Kim has shared the stage with such gospel greats as: Shirley Caesar, Albertina Walker, Donnie Mc Clurkin, Karen Clark Sheard, Yolanda Adams, among many others. She brings a jazz spirit to her phrasing, and it has been said “her whooping riffs give the listener the impression of hearing a vocal equivalent of Art Tatum or Charlie Parker signifying on a scale, and she freestyles lyrics with an abandon reminiscent of Sarah Vaughan.”

The Allen Room, located on the 6th floor of the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle, is one of three performing venues for Jazz at Lincoln Center; its floor to ceiling windows offer an amazing panorama view of one of New York City most exciting and cherished neighborhoods, including Columbus Circle, Central Park South, and Broadway, the famous “street of dreams”.

Kim Burrell has performed with Stevie Wonder, Harry Connick, R. Kelly and George Clinton. True to Kim’s prayers, her voice touched the lives of every one who gathered tonight, regardless of their race or religion, to celebrate peace, love and hope for the New Year. . . including yours truly.

Photo credit: Frank Stewart/Jazz at Lincoln Center

For Jazz at Lincoln Center ‘s 2010 Calendar of performances and events: visit: http://www.jalc.org

You can view the Babbie De Derian Blog at  www.travelbeyondexpectations.com

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