A Very Jazzy Christmas

At the heart of the holiday season stands Bending Towards the Light … A Jazz Nativity, a refreshing alternative to traditional holiday performances that combines the timeless story of the Nativity with the soulful sound and improvisational nature of jazz music. This blend of music and storytelling sets the stage for a holiday event like no other.

Starring Chris Brubeck, Maurice Chestnut and Bobby Sanabria, the annual production brings together a talented cast of musicians, vocalists, and actors to deliver a memorable experience for audiences of all ages. Its nearly forty-year history has garnered widespread acclaim and its soundtrack recording features greats such as Tito Puente, Lionel Hampton, and Dave Brubeck.

Jazz Nativity was initially written and arranged by singer-songwriter Anne Phillips in 1985 at the suggestion of “The Jazz Pastor,” the late Reverend John Garcia Gensel, for a benefit at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church on 54th and Lexington Avenue. Brubeck, Clark Terry, Gene Bertoncini, Tommy Flanegan, George Mraz, and Grady Tate appeared in that first show with Pastor Gensel as host & Bob Kindred as musical director. Phillips was recently featured in an interview with WBGO.

Performances were later held at St. Bartholomew’s Church (325 Park Avenue), Stephen Wise Free Synagogue (30 West 68th Street), midtown’s now shuttered Lamb Theatre, and Symphony Space (2537 Broadway).

CBS Sunday Morning’s Charles Kuralt once hosted and Beth Ann Kennedy directed a production at Avery Fisher Hall in 1995, and a Spanish version titled Inclinando Hacia La Luz…la Natividad en Jazz was performed at B.B. King’s former Times Square jazz hotspot in 2011.

This latest rendition just premiered in Bozeman, Montana on November 30 and will be heading to New York for an 8:00 p.m. show on December 18 at St. Paul and St. Andrew United Methodist Church (263 West 86th Street).

Tickets for the in-person performance are $40 (and $25 for children and seniors). Virtual tickets are $25. The run time clocks in at about 100 minutes with no intermission between the two parts (“The Story” and “The Celebration”).

Original creator Phillips has double duty as host and conductor this year. For tickets, please click here.

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