[JPL] OBITUARIES: Edgar Summerlin, 78; Musician Wrote Jazz-Based Liturgical Works

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Fri Oct 13 15:11:47 EDT 2006

Edgar Summerlin, 78; Musician Wrote Jazz-Based Liturgical Works

By Don Heckman
Special to The Times

October 13, 2006

Edgar E. "Ed" Summerlin, whose 1959 composition, "Requiem for Mary Jo," was
one of the first significant uses of jazz in a liturgical service, died
Tuesday in Rhinebeck, N.Y. He was 78.

Summerlin had been hospitalized for several weeks suffering with
complications of treatment for cancer.

"Requiem for Mary Jo" was written as an outpouring of grief over the death
of his 9-month-old daughter. He subsequently wrote several other jazz-based
liturgical works, including "Episcopal Evensong," "Jazz Vespers Service" and
"Liturgy of the Holy Spirit."

Born Sept. 1, 1928, in Marianna, Fla., Summerlin received a master's degree
from the Eastman School of Music in 1952 and studied composition with
Gunther Schuller and Hall Overton. He taught jazz composition, theory and
saxophone at the University of North Texas in the late 1950s and was
director of the jazz program at the City College of New York from 1971 to

After freelancing in the '50s as a tenor saxophonist with the bands of Sonny
Dunham, Ted Weems, Tony Pastor and others, Summerlin became an active
participant in New York City's experimental jazz scene of the 1960s. He
performed with Don Ellis, Steve Swallow, Ron Carter, Sheila Jordan, Steve
Kuhn, Eric Dolphy and Slide Hampton, and co-led the Improvisational Jazz

Summerlin also composed and/or arranged for Carter, Kuhn, Freddie Hubbard,
Dave Leibman, Toshiko Akiyoshi and Lee Konitz. As a tenor saxophonist his
style was eclectic, reaching from jaunty, straight-ahead playing to
horn-scouring avant-garde sounds.

His albums include "Ring Out Joy" (Avant-Garde), "Liturgical Jazz" (Ecclesia
Records), "The Improvisational Jazz Workshop," "Sum of the Parts" and "Eye
on the Future" (all on Ictus Records).

Summerlin is survived by his wife, Karen Jones Summerlin, his son Jeff, and
two granddaughters, Meghan and Erica.

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