Negro Spiritual Project Performs at the Fort

By 
Allen Bush
July 27, 2018
Press release
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The Gregory Groover Negro Spiritual Project brings spirituals and hymns to Berklee's annual Jazz at the Fort concert. 

Gregory Groover and the Negro Spiritual Project
Photo by Anyelo Flores

Berklee College of Music presents the free annual outdoor concert Jazz at the Fort on Sunday, August 5, with a performance by the Gregory Groover Negro Spiritual Project. The program will feature the tenor saxophonist's arrangements of negro spirituals, original compositions, and music by Duke Ellington.

Groover B.M. ‘15, M.M. ’17, a Boston native, attended Berklee on a full scholarship. He now teaches at the Boston Arts Academy. As a boy, he spent his time in Boston’s historic Charles Street AME Church, where his father was a pastor. Among the congregation were families who migrated from the South, bringing with them traditional spirituals and hymns. Church elders taught Groover that these compositions contained messages, historical information, and covert protests. Groover, though generations removed from the spirituals, connected to his forebears in the way they wove topical information into their music, just like the jazz and hip-hop artists of our time.

“The church has influenced me deeply and some of the music I’ve composed has biblical and spiritual correlations. I think of them as hymns for a modern audience,” said Groover. “I arrange this music to be accessible and enjoyed by all. This is how the tradition will continue.”

Jazz at the Fort takes place Sunday, August 5, 5:00 p.m., at Roxbury’s Highland Park on Fort Avenue. Joining Groover will be Jesse Taitt B.M. '13, piano; Seulgi Hwang M.M. '17, upright bass; and Jharis Yokley B.M. '14, drums.

After graduating with a bachelor's degree from Berklee, Groover earned his Master of Music in Contemporary Performance (Global Jazz Concentration) at the college, under the direction of Danilo Pérez, founder and artistic director of the Berklee Global Jazz Institute (BGJI). The program gave him the opportunity to enrich his community by working with children and teaching music in the Boston area. He went to Panama with Pérez and performed at the Panama Jazz Festival. His affiliation with the institute brought opportunities to play with Terri Lyne Carrington, Esperanza Spalding, Brian Blade, John Patitucci, Patrice Rushen, and other influential jazz musicians.

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