- Associated Press - Friday, January 20, 2017

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) - Almost every week from the second Sunday of September through Pentecost, which this year is June 4, the Westminster Presbyterian Church holds a 50-minute Jazz Vespers service.

The 4 p.m. service at the church on West Moss Avenue consists of a “small combo in jazz standards and original compositions” and is led by David Hoffman, who was the trumpet/flugelhorn soloist and composer/arranger with the Ray Charles Orchestra for 15 years.

The Rev. Denise Clark-Jones calls the “upbeat, shorter service” a different way of worship that came about when she noticed the jazz services done periodically at churches in her home state of Pennsylvania were less common in the Peoria area.

“We chose jazz because it is American, it crosses racial, ethnic, generational boundaries,” Clark-Jones said. “There are all kinds of jazz, from different ethnic groups, it’s very inclusive music, and we’re very surprised and happy to find there is a tremendous jazz community here in central Illinois.”

After going around asking for musicians to start playing at the service almost two years ago, Clark-Jones found Hoffman, who embraced the project immediately.

“When we talked about doing this with the folks from the church, we wanted to figure out how to have the music and the message be cohesive,” Hoffman said. “So I write music every week, at least one new tune to fit with the message. The idea is to have a whole vibe to it, kind of put things together in a different way.”

The church’s website says Hoffman is joined most weeks by such musicians as Dan Leahy on piano, Mike Nellas on bass, Jason Brannon on drums, Jamika Russell on vocals, with Clark-Jones leading the service.

The service was attended by about 30 people Sunday, and Clark-Jones said the public response has been great.

“Started out being a 30-minute service, then the band started playing earlier, and then the band started playing later, so now it ends up being almost a 50-minute service with the added music,” Clark-Jones said. “People just stay until they say ‘I’m going home now.’”

Hoffman, who was born in Springfield and lives in Galesburg, said he had a pretty intense experience playing and traveling for so many years with the Ray Charles Orchestra, and that they played wonderful music every single night. Hoffman said he would be happy to continue leading the jazz services at Westminster Presbyterian Church for the rest of his life.


Source: (Peoria) Journal Star, https://bit.ly/2jwAoNw


Information from: Journal Star, https://pjstar.com

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