Edgar Summerlin, Pioneer of Liturgical Jazz, Dies at 78 | Playbill

Classic Arts News Edgar Summerlin, Pioneer of Liturgical Jazz, Dies at 78
Tenor saxophonist and composer Edgar E. Summerlin died at age 78 on October 10, reports The New York Times.
Summerlin was a pioneer in the field of jazz music for church services; one of his earliest works was Requiem for Mary Jo, written for the memorial service of his baby daughter. He also wrote a modern jazz setting for a prayer service written centuries earlier by John Wesley, the founder of Methodism.

He composed jazz services for a range of faiths, settings which were performed by jazz combos and orchestras. His purpose, writes the Times, was to create appealing music but also to challenge convention. He explained in a recent radio interview that he wanted to "get the congregation to change the way they approach the whole worship service."

Summerlin also founded the jazz program at the City College of New York, which he directed in the 1970s and '80s.

Summerlin was born in Marianna, Florida, graduated from Central Missouri State University and received a master's degree from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester. He taught at North Texas State College, then at City College from 1971 to 1989, according to the paper.

He was active in the avant-garde scene of the 1960s and performed with leading jazz figures.

He died in Rhinebeck, New York, from pneumonia resulting from cancer treatments, according to the Times.

Click Here to Shop for Theatre
Merchandise in the Playbill Store

Explore Classic Arts:
Recommended Reading:

Blocking belongs
on the stage,
not on websites.

Our website is made possible by
displaying online advertisements to our visitors.

Please consider supporting us by
whitelisting playbill.com with your ad blocker.
Thank you!