“In the churches that I grew up in, the idea was to make a joyful noise unto the Lord every opportunity that you had to do so!”
In preparation for Friday night at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival at the University of Idaho, Dee Daniels — who has released a half dozen albums of jazz standards, blues and gospel tunes, and who has spent three decades performing all over the world — has arranged several songs for gospel choir: “Over My Head,” an old Negro spiritual; R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly”; “He’ll Understand and Say ‘Well Done,’”; and Oscar Peterson’s “Hymn to Freedom.”
For the performance, UI music professor Dan Bukvich has assembled a gospel choir “of about 50 — with a lot of local music teachers who are good singers.” But, he quickly adds, passing along the credit, “Dee wrote all the arrangements, and they’ll be learning from her.”
While Daniels will also perform solo at the piano, the emotional highlight of Friday’s concert will be “My Prayer,” a song written by Daniels’ mother and arranged here for gospel choir. “When my stepfather passed away a few years ago, my mother was inspired to write several poems as a relief from grieving,” Daniels says. “One day, months later, as I was trying to compose a song, I was getting nowhere” until her eye fell on “My Prayer.” Within five minutes, she had set the prayer to music.
While pianist Cyrus Chestnut will also perform on Friday night, followed by the Taj Majal Trio — and while Daniels will return on Saturday to perform with a big band — “My Prayer” just might mark the moment when hands begin to clap, bodies begin to sway, and the Kibbie Dome starts to resound with a joyful noise.
The Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival continues in Moscow at UI’s Kibbie Dome with the Clayton Brothers Quintet and the Pizzarelli Family on Thursday, Feb. 25, at 8 pm; with Cyrus Chestnut, Taj Mahal, Dee Daniels and a gospel choir on Friday, Feb. 26, at 8:30 pm; and with the Lionel Hampton New York Big Band featuring Dee Daniels on Saturday, Feb. 27, at 8:30 pm (with a dance floor). Tickets: $30-$39; $20-$39, students. Visit uidaho.edu/jazzfest or call (208) 885-7212 or 88-88-UIDAHO.