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Meet the Willie Sordillo Ensemble: Doug & Erez

September 27, 2020

This week, we finish (re)-introducing you to the Willie Sordillo Ensemble! Every week the Ensemble soothes and stirs our souls at our Virtual Coffee House--and before that, Jazz Worship. They are some of the most talented musicians in New England and pastor us with their gifts and artistry. 

This week we meet Doug Rich and Erez Dessel.

DOUG RICH

How long have you been a part of the Willie Sordillo Ensemble?

Either as the resident bassist or as a part of the rotating group of musicians, I've been a part of this Ensemble since the Jazz Worship service started at Old South.

What are some things you like about playing for Old South Jazz Worship and the Virtual Jazz Coffeehouse or that make this a unique performing experience?

Among other things, I really enjoy the format of the service - it's a different type of worship that appeals to me in the focus on reaching anyone that might happen to be present.  While there is a regular 'congregation' there is an interesting mix of new people as well that is apparent when there are live services.  There's an informality but also a focus on worship that's refreshing.  The music is always varied and challenging in the sense that we're not only playing jazz but also everything else across the spectrum that serves the message for that day.  Not to mention the great friends I'm playing with on a regular basis!

The same things hold true for the Virtual Jazz Coffeehouse, which is also well done and true to the mission of the Jazz Worship services.  I do miss the interaction very much, but on the positive side we are now reaching a wider audience.

What keeps you busy when you aren’t playing with the Ensemble?

Musically, just trying to be the best musician I can be.  Without live performance that means getting better at studio recording techniques (and video as well).  I'm also trying to find ways to keep my band engaged while we go through this pandemic.  Outside of the music biz, my wife and I co-own a bookstore in Rockport, and I have a new position as the Operations Manager for a great Boston based non-profit called City Strings Inc.  On top of that I try to keep up with my family and my rapidly growing grandkids.

Can you talk about particular songs, albums or artists which have had a significant impact on your musical direction?

Don't get me started, this could go on and on! Thinking in terms of what we do at Old South, I can see why I'm at home here in some of my influences.

There was a West Coast based free-jazz pianist and composer named Horace Tapscott who was known for being very active in LA social movements for using his music as an organizing force.  I'd also heard that, for some time, he had one of his ensembles playing a concert in a church once a month as a way of educating the community and raising money for the community.  That idea has always inspired me.

In this same vein, I have to mention the great Charles Mingus.  A virtuostic player, excellent composer, and fearsome band leader, he was the complete musician.  He studied Duke Ellington and incorporated some of his techniques in his writing and arranging.  He drew on many styles and art forms, including field songs and church music.  Like Tapscott he wrote many songs addressing politics and culture.  Two of my favorite Mingus compositions are Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting and Duke Ellington's Sound Of Love.  But there are many ...

Finally I'll mention Stevie Wonder, another prolific artist with tremendous range.  I would have to put his album Music Of My Mind on my own GOAT list.  Somehow to me it simply stands apart from so many great things he's done, and no one else could have done it.

 

EREZ DESSEL

How long have you been a part of the Willie Sordillo Ensemble? 

I've been playing with this ensemble regularly since November 2019.

What are some things you like about playing for Old South Jazz Worship and the Virtual Jazz Coffeehouse or that make this a unique performing experience?

I love the people in the group and the way that everyone approaches the music in such a calm and healing way. I think that's also what makes the experience unique, the fact we're able to combine this improvisational music (music that I've always found healing) with worship.

What keeps you busy when you aren’t playing with the Ensemble?

I'm currently working as the music director for the Savannah Music Festival Jazz Academy, I also teach at Youth and Family Enrichment Services based in Hyde Park, and have been offering some online music classes through Tufts and other places in Boston. Right now I'm looking forward to the day when gigs will be keeping me busy!

Can you talk about particular songs, albums or artists which have had a significant impact on your musical direction?

Recently I've been drawn to the pianist Mary Lou Williams, she actually created a lot of work specifically inspired by religion. Her ability to create such a wide range of music and compose for such a diverse set of contexts is astounding, and her sound on the piano is always surprising, something which I appreciate in music.