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We are pleased to present a collaborative work by jazz musician James Hall and poet Emily Ruth Hazel. James created a musical reaction to Emily's poem, "Of Blood and Water" which is based on the account of Jesus changing water into wine in John 2:1-11.

John 2:1-11

Of Blood and Water


James Hall


Curated by: 


Image by Giorgio Trovato

Primary Scripture

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After hearing Hermeto Pascoal's "Tres Coisas," I was motivated to experiment with the musical qualities of human speech. Emily Ruth Hazel's poem "Of Blood and Water" had caught my eye, and her recitation, with its subtle glissandi and rhythm, seemed a natural fit for use as a melody.

Emily's poem plays with a subtle transformation from blue to red, and from water to wine. The musical setting similarly toys with the transformation from stasis to motion, and with various shades of synchronization. At times it sounds like the band is reacting to Emily's speech. Other times, it sounds as though we're anticipating it. I did a 2-track room recording with my Zoom and mixed Emily's vocals in, synchronized with how it was being played in the room where we recorded. This gets the spirit of the thing: it dances on the fence between in-time and free, on-pitch and just spoken, while preserving Emily's original poem in her voice.

Spark Notes

The Artist's Reflection

James Hall is a trombonist and composer from Nebraska based in New York City. A versatile musician, his projects have spanned jazz, classical, latin, and popular music in the US and Europe.

As a composer and bandleader, James was named a finalist in the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Competition, won three ASCAPlus Awards for composition, and was a featured performer/composer at the 2012 Chelsea Music Festival. As trombonist in Williamsburg Salsa Orchestra, he has performed at B.B. Kings', S.O.B's, MassMOCA, The Kennedy Center, The Blue Note Jazz Festival, and has appeared in the pages of Rolling Stone Magazine. He has appeared on several recordings with Postmodern Jukebox, with whom he has toured Europe and the US. James' trombone playing earned third place, runner-up, and honorable mention in the Antti Rissanen, J.J. Johnson, and Carl Fontana International Jazz Trombone Competitions, respectively.

James' first CD as a composer/bandleader was released in October 2013. Entitled "Soon We Will Not Be Here" by James Hall Thousand Rooms Quartet, the body of work sets contemporary poems by NYC-based poets to 3rd-stream chamber music. His sophomore release, "Lattice," is currently in post-production.

James holds degrees from the Lawrence Conservatory of Music in Wisconsin and Aaron Copland School of Music in New York. His teachers have included Luis Bonilla, Hal Crook, Michael Dease, Nick Keelan, Ed Neumeister, and Fred Sturm.

Photo by Bill Wadman.

James Hall

About the Artist

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