Once upon a time, St. John’s chorister Scott Konrad visited The Landing on the Riverwalk, long-time home to Jim Cullum’s Dixieland jazz band, during a business trip to San Antonio. After enjoying the band’s spirited performance that evening, he bought the ensemble’s CD recording, Deep River: The Spirit of Gospel Music in Jazz, on his way out of the restaurant. Listening to it on his return flight to Connecticut, Scott was inspired to try something new at St. John’s, Essex: a Dixieland jazz vespers service, aided by a handful of jazz musician friends.
That was 20 years ago – and the tradition lives on, although it’s since taken the form of a straight-up concert on Shrove Tuesday, preceded by a traditional pancake supper. Over the decades, Scott’s pick-up band, the Occasional Jazz Ensemble, has entertained St. John’s and the broader community with its Chicago-style Dixieland mix of spirituals, hymns, and Great American Songbook fare. Although the lineup of musicians has varied from year to year, the anticipation, energy, and enthusiasm have remained constant – and a variety of charitable causes have benefited from the free-will offerings collected.
2021 is the first ‘quiet’ year since we began the tradition. Still, Scott has provided a handful of performances to enjoy in your home or car, culled from the band’s recordings, including My Big Fat Episcopalian Tuesday, Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler!, and Morbidly Obese Tuesday.
Written by Scott Konrad