Edgar Eugene Summerlin (September 1, 1928 – October 10, 2006) was an American jazz saxophonist, composer, and educator known for pioneering Liturgical jazz, avant-garde jazz, and free jazz.

While a graduate student at the University of North Texas College of Music, Summerlin, in 1959, composed Requiem for Mary Jo, which is widely believed to be one of the first significant uses of jazz in a liturgical service. He and his wife, Mary Elizabeth (nee Bouknight), had a daughter, Mary Jo (b. April 2, 1958, Denton), who died of heart disease at age nine months on January 27, 1959, in Denton.

He performed Requiem for Mary Jo May 20, 1959, during a service in the chapel at the Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University. Bill Slack, Jr., Assistant Pastor of the First Methodist Church of Denton, who had visited the Summerlins while Mary Jo was near death in the hospital, had encouraged Summerlin to compose Requiem. Dr. Roger Ellwood Ortmayer (1916–1984), then of the Perkins School, commissioned the work.

That same year, still studying and teaching at North Texas, Summerlin recorded his debut LP, Liturgical Jazz, on which “Requiem for Mary Jo,” was the heartbreaking centerpiece.

Saturday night, February 13, 1960, NBC’s World Wide 60 (hosted by Chet Huntley) visited Denton to air the story of Ed Summerlin’s liturgical jazz (national broadcast, NBC, Friday, February 19, 1960).

Summerlin’s grieving and spiritual creativity inspired him to compose other liturgical jazz pieces, including

As the sixties progressed, Summerlin gradually established himself as an avant-garde tenor saxophonist, composer and arranger.

At the same time, his well-publicized prime time television debut was followed by several Sunday morning appearances throughout the 1960s on the long-running CBS series, Look Up and Live, collaborating with musicians such as Freddie Hubbard, Eric Dolphy, Don Ellis, Slide Hampton, and Ron Carter, as well as choreographer Anna Sokolow. During this decade, Summerlin also scored two feature films, the little-known 1963 Bay of Pigs-inspired drama, We Shall Return (which, coincidentally, featured the first and only original screenplay by oft-adapted novelist Pat Frank) and the even lesser known 1967 film Ciao (written and directed by the earlier film’s editor, David Tucker), which, after becoming the only U.S. feature film to be entered in that year’s Venice Film Festival, failed to find a distributor and quickly disappeared from view.

Summerlin relocated to New York in the early 1960s, where he freelanced with Eric Dolphy, Pete LaRoca, Don Ellis, and Sheila Jordan. He also composed and arranged for Ron Carter, Kuhn, Freddie Hubbard, Dave Liebman, Toshiko Akiyoshi, and Lee Konitz. In 1969 collaborated with saxophonist and journalist Don Heckman to co-lead the Improvisational Jazz Workshop.

Summerlin also composed and/or arranged for Carter, Kuhn, Freddie Hubbard, Dave Leibman, Toshiko Akiyoshi and Lee Konitz. As a tenor saxophonist his style was eclectic, reaching from jaunty, straight-ahead playing to horn-scouring avant-garde sounds.

With Freddie Hubbard

With Steve Kuhn and Toshiko Akiyoshi

With Caedmon Records

With The Rock Generation