A remarkable circa 1990 recording of Martin Luther King’s favorite gospel hymn, “Precious Lord,” has been posted on YouTube, accompanied with visuals and quotations from the Civil Rights Era. It has been added to a YouTube playlist of jazzy interpretations of African-American spirituals and gospel hymns featuring the “Night Job Trio,” multiple percussionists and Oakland’s Bethlehem Lutheran Choir.
The music on the playlist, directed from the piano by Alice Wildermuth O’Sullivan, includes stunning improvisations by virtuoso clarinetist Clarence Warren on “Just a Closer Walk,” “Motherless Child,” “I Want Jesus to Walk with Me,” “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” “Angels Watching over Me,” and “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho.” They can all be found on the “Night Job Trio” playlist on the “Alice Wildermuth O’Sullivan” YouTube channel.
Warren played woodwinds with jazz giants including Earl “Fatha” Hines, Jay McShann and Lena Horne.
The Night Job Trio included Warren, whose day job was an Oakland school administrator, Dave Weber MD, trombonist/harmonica player and Alice, pianist and attorney. Percussionists include Michael Barry, Med Daughtey and Bruce Humphrey. Shirley and Sandra White were frequent soprano soloists.
The words to “Precious Lord” were written by Thomas Dorsey, who adapted its music. He wrote it after his wife died in childbirth and infant son soon thereafter. Dr. King often had Mahalia Jackson sing the hymn at rallies and arranged that she sing it at his funeral.
The photos from Montgomery, Atlanta and Selma are from Robert O’Sullivan’s participation in the 50th Anniversary of the Selma March.