The artistic partnership that yielded the glorious new album “The Gospel According to Nikki Giovanni” may seem heaven-made, but it was actually initiated two years ago in Hartford.

When the renowned poet, activist, and Virginia Tech professor Nikki Giovanni came to the University of Hartford in February 2020 to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. and receive an honorary doctorate, she met the tenor saxophonist Javon Jackson, who chairs the university’s Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz.

The classic album “Steal Away” by Charlie Haden and Hank Jones was playing in the auditorium as the audience arrived for the ceremony that day, and after receiving her degree Giovanni joined a student gospel choir in singing “We Shall Overcome” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

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