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Sisters of Swing: In The Habit

Mark F. Turner By

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You might be hard pressed to envision a jazz group of nuns jamming to selections by Coltrane, Miles, or Mingus. Yes, I said nuns. If you thought you'd read this incorrectly, just remember that stranger things have happened in life. When you combine hard swinging rhythms with Sisters who love jazz, you may think you ears and cerebral functions are playing tricks with your mind, but think again, because the "Sisters of Swing" quartet is a serious force to be reckoned with. Their new debut release, affectionately titled In The Habit, has its musical roots in the jazz of the '60s with a fresh mindset for the new millennium. A little history is definitely in order...

For the past few years the Kloster Schlehdorf International Music Festival in Germany has sponsored various musicians and artists in an effort to promote unity in music. The festival is held every spring in a Bavarian nunnery located at the beautiful sea Kochelsee and is believed to be the first European Jazz-Festival organized by nuns. With over 60 international musicians and 23 concerts, the musicians perform a diverse mixture of styles including Swing, Bop, Mainstream, Avant-garde, and World music.

Last years hit performance group which surprised and thrilled audiences was none other than the Sisters of Swing. One sporadic review of their performance deemed the group as the second coming of Coltrane, with a mission to win souls for jazz.

The quartet consists of nuns from diverse backgrounds who found a commonality not only in theology, but also in music. Having performed in bands in secular groups before their faith gig, they began their heavenly performances at weddings and church functions in surrounding areas. Their bishop at their local diocese was at first reluctant to mix Church and State affairs, eventually saw the light.

The music on the debut recording shows that these sisters are serious. One listen to Sister Agnes's incredible tenor solo on "A Love Supreme" will make converts of any listener. A few of the group's choice of selections seem to have a underlying intent with covers such as "Just A Closer Walk with Thee" and a funky rendition of "How Great Thou Art" that would surely make some members of the cloth change a few shades of color. They are clearly a tight group as they anticipate one another's moves. Sister Mary is killer (excuse the pun) on the bass, as she displays precision chops and free solos.

Sister Martha reveals an almost out of body exuberance as she rips the keys to shreds on & quot;Amazing Grace". The recording concludes with an over five minute drum solo by Sister Amelia that could teach any current percussionist a thing or two about stamina. Whether you're a jazz convert or not, these sisters may definitely show you the light.

The Kloster Schlehdorf International Music Festival is a highly influential event that is sponsored by nuns. With luck, SOS may someday come to a concert venue near you (check your local convent).


Track Listing: 1.Holy Toledo! 2.A Love Supreme 3.Nearer My God To Thee 4.Amazing Grace 5.April's Fool 6.Amazing Grace 7.How Great Thou Art 8.Bebop Heaven

Personnel: Sister Mary - bass; Sister Martha - piano; keyboards; Sister Agnes - tenor, baritone saxophone; Sister Amelia - drums

Title: In The Habit | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Heavenly Sounds

April fools!


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