Gospel Music and Jazz

Written by on October 14, 2015

Damien Sneed
(Damien Sneed, Photo: Frank Stewart)

The ties between Gospel music and the Jazz tradition run deep. From Louis Armstrong performing spirituals, to the sacred music of Duke Ellington or of Mary Lou Williams, many Jazz artists have worked very closely in Gospel music, and their performances styles often draw heavily from the inspiration.

But what is the Gospel tradition, and how is it performed? The wonderful artist Damien Sneed, joined by Bishop Iona Locke, joined us at the Jazz Academy to discuss the origins and performance practice in an overview, which you can see below:

How do you build a performance practice around this, if you want to bring Gospel music into Jazz?

One option is to look at the tambourine rhythms that come out of Church traditions, and master New Orleans percussionist Herlin Riley gives us a Tambourine 101 lesson here:

Additionally, we see the Hammond organ deeply ingrained in the Gospel music tradition, explained in this five-part series by Sue Hampton. Check out part one below:


(and watch the full series here)

You can also learn more about how Wynton Marsalis approached this union in his wonderful Abyssinian Mass. Watch the full performance of the piece here:

And for a breakdown of how the music is pulled together, join Damien Sneed as he and four vocalists proceed movement by movement through the Mass:

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