Ed Summerlin was one of the first composers to channel the sensibilities of jazz into liturgical music, later emerging as a sought-after tenor saxophonist within the New York City avant-garde community. Born September 1, 1928, in Marianna, FL, Edgar Summerlin earned his master's degree from the Eastman School of Music in 1952, and later studied composition under Gunther Schuller and Hall Overton. During the latter half of the decade Summerlin taught jazz composition, theory, and saxophone at the University of North Texas and in 1959 cut his debut LP, Liturgical Jazz. Its heartbreaking centerpiece, "Requiem for Mary Jo," was written in response to the death of his nine-month-old daughter, and the experience proved so cathartic that it resulted in other spiritual jazz compositions including "Episcopal Evensong" and "Liturgy of the Holy Spirit." Summerlin relocated to New York at the dawn of the 1960s, performing alongside experimental jazz greats including Eric Dolphy, Don Ellis, and Sheila Jordan. He also wrote and arranged music for Freddie Hubbard, Ron Carter, and Dave Liebman, and in 1969 teamed with altoist/jazz journalist Don Heckman to co-lead the Improvisational Jazz Workshop, recording a cult-classic LP for the Ictus label. From 1971 to 1989 Summerlin taught at the City College of New York. After a long battle with cancer, he died October 10, 2006, in Rhinebeck, NY.
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