By MICHAEL ALEXANDER, Staff Photographer | Published October 11, 2012
Some 200 people kicked back and listened to jazz on the grounds of Christ Our Hope Church Oct. 6. Since 2009 the parish Men’s Club has hosted the annual evening of Jazz on the Lawn.
Although the event usually takes place in late August or September, a balmy fall evening complemented the melodious jazz sounds coming from the elevated stage.
Father John Paul Ezeonyido, the pastor of Christ Our Hope Church, took the stage to say a prayer to open this year’s event. Then Men’s Club president Peter Daniels introduced the master of ceremonies for the evening, Morris Baxter, Jazz 91.9 WCLK morning jazz host.
After Baxter’s introduction, female saxophonist Nadra Bingham took the stage with her quartet. Bingham showed off her saxophonic skills playing the alto, soprano and tenor sax on a variety of selections. At one point, the young sax player came off the stage and walked through the crowd as she played. After a 45-minute set, the artist and her band took a momentary break before returning for a second set.
Headliner Rhonda Thomas, an Atlanta-based singer, followed Bingham to round out the evening’s women of jazz theme. Thomas is a veteran vocalist whose stage presence and wide vocal range rouse an audience to the point of clapping, finger popping and dancing. For just over a decade Thomas was a soloist and background vocalist for the late Isaac Hayes, the creative arranger, composer, musician and producer.
Christ Our Hope’s Jazz on the Lawn creates a Chastain-like atmosphere. Tickets are sold for table seating as well as open lawn seating. Food vendors were on hand for patrons who did not bring their own edibles.
“Each year we try to improve upon the previous year,” said Charles Hawkins, the Men’s Club’s concert event planner and promoter. The funds raised are donated to the church to meet a variety of needs or for special projects.