Ed Summerlin

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Ed Summerlin
Birth name Edgar Eugene Summerlin
Born (1928-09-01)September 1, 1928
Marianna, Florida, United States
Died October 10, 2006(2006-10-10) (aged 78)
Rhinebeck, New York, United States
Genres Post-bop, Avant-garde jazz, Free jazz, Liturgical music
Occupation(s) Composer, arranger, bandleader, saxophonist
Instruments Tenor saxophone
Years active 1955–present
Labels Ecclesia, Avant-Garde, Jazz Workshop, ICTUS
Associated acts Steve Kuhn

Edgar Eugene Summerlin (September 1, 1928, Marianna, FL – October 10, 2006, Rhinebeck, NY) was an American composer, jazz saxophonist, and music educator, known for pioneering liturgical jazz, avant-garde jazz, and free jazz.

Professional career[edit]

While a graduate student at the University of North Texas College of Music, Summerlin, in 1959, composed Requiem for Mary Jo, which is widely believed to be one of the first significant uses of jazz in a liturgical service.[1] He and his wife, Mary Elizabeth (nee Bouknight), had a daughter, Mary Jo (b. April 2, 1958, Denton), who died of heart disease at age nine months on January 27, 1959, in Denton.

He performed Requiem for Mary Jo May 20, 1959, during a service in the chapel at the Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.[2] Bill Slack, Jr., Assistant Pastor of the First Methodist Church of Denton, who had visited the Summerlins while Mary Jo was near death in the hospital, had encouraged Summerlin to compose Requiem. Dr. Roger Ellwood Ortmayer (1916–1984), then of the Perkins School, commissioned the work.[3]

That same year, still studying and teaching at North Texas, Summerlin recorded his debut LP, Liturgical Jazz, on which "Requiem for Mary Jo," was the heartbreaking centerpiece.

Saturday night, February 13, 1960, NBC's World Wide 60 (hosted by Chet Huntley) visited Denton to air the story of Ed Summerlin's liturgical jazz (national broadcast, NBC, Friday, February 19, 1960).[4]

Summerlin's grieving and spiritual creativity inspired him to compose other liturgical jazz pieces, including

  • Episcopal Evensong
  • Jazz Vespers Service[5]
  • Liturgy of the Holy Spirit[6] Summerlin Music Co. (1965), piano-vocal score, 13 pgs

As the sixties progressed, Summerlin gradually established himself as an avant-garde tenor saxophonist, composer and arranger.

At the same time, his well-publicized prime time television debut was followed by several Sunday morning appearances throughout the 1960s on the long-running CBS series, Look Up and Live,[5][7][8][9] collaborating with musicians such as Freddie Hubbard,[10] Eric Dolphy, Don Ellis, Slide Hampton, and Ron Carter,[5] as well as choreographer Anna Sokolow.[9] During this decade, Summerlin also scored two feature films, the little-known 1963 Bay of Pigs-inspired drama, We Shall Return (which, coincidentally, featured the first and only original screenplay by oft-adapted novelist Pat Frank) and the even lesser known 1967 film Ciao (written and directed by the earlier film's editor, David Tucker),[11][12] which, after becoming the only U.S. feature film to be entered in that year's Venice Film Festival,[11][13] failed to find a distributor and quickly disappeared from view.


New York[edit]

Summerlin relocated to New York in the early 1960s, where he freelanced with Eric Dolphy, Pete LaRoca, Don Ellis, and Sheila Jordan. He also composed and arranged for Ron Carter, Kuhn, Freddie Hubbard, Dave Liebman, Toshiko Akiyoshi, and Lee Konitz. In 1969 collaborated with saxophonist and journalist Don Heckman to co-lead the Improvisational Jazz Workshop.

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.


  • Former wife (married August 27, 1948 and Oct 15, 1949) — Summerlin married Virginia Lee Allen, in Lexington, MO.[15]
  • Former wife, Mary Elizabeth (nee, Bouknight) Hyde Park, NY
  • Surviving wife, Karen Jones Summerlin (married December 15, 1974, New York City), currently resides in Staatsburg, New York
son — Jeff Summerlin, Dutchess County, NY
son — Sean Wright, De Soto, KS

Selected discography[edit]

As leader[edit]

Recorded at Make Believe Ballroom in West Shokan, New York, Ed Summerlin - Bob Norden Quartet, December 27 & 28, 1993, released 1998
Ed Summerlin (tenor sax), Bob Norden (trombone), Charlie Kniceley (bass), Chris Starpoli (percussion)
Recorded at Make Believe Ballroom in West Shokan, New York, released February, 1998
Ed Summerlin (tenor sax), Bruce Ahrens (trumpet), Joe Chambers (drums), Ron Finck (alto sax), Tony Marino (bass)
Recorded at Make Believe Ballroom in West Shokan, New York, December 14 & 15, 1998; released 1999
Ed Summerlin (tenor sax), Bruce Ahrens (trumpet), Bob Norden (trombone), Ron Finck (alto sax), Tony Marino (bass), Adam Nussbaum (drums)

As arranger / composer[edit]

With Freddie Hubbard

With Steve Kuhn and Toshiko Akiyoshi

With Caedmon Records

  • Winnie the Pooh: Told and Sung (Caedmon, TC 1408; 1972) – words and music by A. A. Milne, Fraser-Simson and Julian Slade, read and sung by Carol Channing; additional music, arrangements and conducting by Ed Summerlin.[16]
  • Many Moons (Caedmon, TC-1410; 1972) – James Thurber story read by Peter Ustinov; background music composed and conducted by Edgar Summerlin.[17]
  • The Great Quillow (Caedmon, TC 1411; 1972) – James Thurber story read by Peter Ustinov; background music composed and conducted by Ed Summerlin.[18]
  • 'Curious George,' and other stories about Curious George (Caedmon, TC 1420; 1973) – read by Julie Harris; background music composed and conducted by Ed Summerlin.[19]
  • 'Curious George Reads the Alphabet,' and other stories about Curious George (Caedmon, TC 1421; 1973) – read by Julie Harris; music composed and conducted by Ed Summerlin.[20]
  • Whoever heard of a Fird? (Caedmon, TC 1735; 1984) – Othello Bach story performed by Joel Grey; arranged and conducted by Ed Summerlin.[21]

With The Rock Generation

  • Saturday in the Park and Other Songs Made Famous by Chicago (RCA Camden, 1973)[22][23]

As sideman or combo member[edit]

Bob Norden (trombone), Bob Silberstein (alto sax), Ed Summerlin (tenor sax), Jim Straney (piano), Neil Courtney (bass), Bill Porter (drums)
Recorded in Rochester, New York, June 1953
  1. All the Things You Are
  2. Fantasia and Fugue on Poinciana
  3. Prelude : Go Forth
  4. Prelude and Jazz
  5. Variation

See also[edit]


  1. ^ John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme is held as one of the first manifestations of spirituality in jazz; Summerlin preceded that landmark album with a number of sacred jazz compositions in 1959.
  2. ^ Lavietes, Stuart. "Edgar Summerlin, 78, Composer Who Brought Jazz to Church". The New York Times. Oct. 24, 2006. Retrieved 2013-03-26.
  3. ^ "Experimental Jazz Service Well Received at Premier", Denton Record-Chronicle, May 21, 1959
  4. ^ "Jazz Church Service, NBC Tells Story of Ed Summerlin", Denton Record-Chronicle, February 21, 1960
  5. ^ a b c Simosko, Vladimir; Tepperman, Barry (1971, 1996). "His Musical Biography". Eric Dolphy: A Musical Biography and Discography. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press. p. 69. ISBN 0-306-80524-3.
  6. ^ Heckman, Don. "Edgar Summerlin, 78; Musician Wrote Jazz-Based Liturgical Works". Los Angeles Times. Oct 13, 2006. Retrieved 2013-03-25.
  7. ^ "TV Programs for the Week of December 4-10". The Palm Beach Post. December 4, 1960.
  8. ^ "Sunday TV Programs". The St. Petersburg Evening Independent. January 28, 1962. Retrieved 2013-04-07.
  9. ^ a b "The Celebrations". WorldCat. Retrieved 2013-04-01.
  10. ^ Feather, Leonard.Liner notes for Hub Cap. Blogspot. Retrieved 2013-04-01. "Freddie was featured on the Look Up and Live CBS telecasts with Summerlin, whose jazz-oriented writing for a Methodist Sunday church service created a sensation in 1959."
  11. ^ a b Feather, Leonard; Gitler, Ira (1976). "Summerlin, Edgar". The Encyclopedia of Jazz of the Seventies. New York Press: Horizon Press. p. 319. Retrieved 2013-04-15.
  12. ^ "1967 Films". Bianco e Nero. Volume 29. 1968. Retrieved 2013-04-15.
  13. ^ Special to The New York Times. "No U.S. Film Entered for Top Venice Prize". The New York Times. August 13, 1967. Retrieved 2013-04-15.
  14. ^ "Jazz Enthusiasts From All Over the County Flock to NT", Denton Record-Chronicle, Sect. 1, p. 1, Jan 19, 1958
  15. ^ Lafayette County, Missouri Marriage License Records, Vol. (unknown), Page 297 (note: there are two Marriage licenses filed of record)
  16. ^ "Winnie-the-Pooh {sound recording} / A.A. Milne". Cranford Public Library. Retrieved 2013-03-26.
  17. ^ "Many Moons". Miami University Libraries. Retrieved 2013-03-26.
  18. ^ "The Great Quillow". Miami University Libraries. Retrieved 2013-03-26.
  19. ^ "Curious George and other stories about curious George (Audiobook on LP, 1972)". WorldCat. Retrieved 2013-03-26.
  20. ^ "Curious George learns the alphabet, and other stories about Curious George". LOC online. Retrieved 2013-03-26.
  21. ^ "Whoever heard of a Fird? {sound recording} / music and lyrics by Othello Bach". MOBIUS. Retrieved 2013-03-26.
  22. ^ Feather, Leonard. "Summerlin, Edgar E. (Ed)". Encyclopedia of Jazz in the Seventies. New York: Horizon Press. p. 319. ISBN 0-8180-1215-3 . Retrieved 2013-05-17.
  23. ^ "Saturday in the park and other songs made famous by Chicago. Sound recordings: RCA Records". Copyright Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2013-05-17.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]