Haynes Burns at Blue Note, ‘Sinners and Saints’

Ron Scott | 3/6/2014, 11:41 p.m.

The program, which included a panel discussion with the musicians and performances, presented jazz and the real deal. It’s the music that was enslaved in Africa for the journey to the shores of America and spread from the cotton fields to Black churches and juke joints. The panel explored the ways in which the secular and sacred often intertwine in these Black American cultural forms.

Note the phrase “avant-garde” was never used. The word improv relates a pure, bare sound, phrases and words that are evoked from feelings, history and culture. If it sounds bold and angry, wild and complicated, it’s because Black life was never a crystal stair.

The “Sinners and Saints” closing night extravaganza with Uzuri’s new band, Praise House, explored improvisation as an ecstatic tradition. The band featured Uzuri (vocals, tambourine) with special guests alto saxophonist Darius Jones, celloist Marika Hughes, pianist Guthrie Ramsey, drummer Marcus Gilmore and Graham Haynes on coronet and dous’ngoni, a West African instrument somewhat similar to a guitar.

Praise houses were built on plantations by slaves for worship services. These services often included ring shouts, where rhythmic hand-clapping and counter-clockwise dancing were performed to spirituals. The Praise House band didn’t play rehearsed tunes but were called upon to play improvised introductions that were layered and escalated by band members.

The improvised music touched the soul and inspired audience participation that led not to ring shouts but to the Electric Slide, the sacred and secular meeting in the 21st century.

“Sinners and Saints” took place at a relatively new performance space called Jack at 505 Waverly Place in Brooklyn. The space holds about 40-50 people and is owned by Alec Duffy. It is becoming an underground spot for music, theater and dance. The walls, which are covered with aluminum foil, separate it from any other spot. No, it’s not an acoustic thing, but rather decorative scenery from a prior theater performance.

Uzuki is a vocalist and cultural warrior whose performances and presentations bring Black culture and its music together in a spirited moment that inspires and swings. Check out her website at www.imaniuzuri.com.