Gospel Jazz

Belle Carmen – Love, Dreams & the Space Between

Belle Carmen Love, Dreams & the Space Between Chrispel Records (2016) www.bellecarmensplace.com By Bob Marovich Part song, part spoken word, and part instrumental, Belle Carmen’s Love, Dreams & the Space Between chronicles the ebbs and flows of her love story with Jesus Christ. Unlike some sacred love songs, there is no ambiguity about the object of Belle’s love focus. It’s Jesus, who is perfect.  She (and by extension, we), the imperfect and flawed, struggles to maintain her part of the bargain. At the same time, Belle wants to do better, and she articulates this in song on “Love You Right” and “Good ...

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Anthony Nelson & the Overcomers: Love Jesus, Love People

Anthony Nelson & the Overcomers Love Jesus, Love People New Heavens & New Earth Music (January 29, 2016) www.antheovercomers.com By Bob Marovich Earlier this year, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, contemporary gospel group Anthony Nelson & the Overcomers released its debut album, Love Jesus, Love People. Nelson, an engineer by training and an ordained deacon and multi-instrumentalist by calling, organized the ensemble three years ago after going through tough personal challenges, including losing both his parents. Despite the ensemble’s Louisiana roots, don’t expect any fais do do on the album. Evoking an eclectic variety of music influences—from Shirley Caesar to Hillsong Worship to ...

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R.E.V. – Beyond Armageddon

R.E.V. Beyond Armageddon (2016) www.revgospel.com By Bob Marovich R.E.V. and Beyond Armageddon are the brainchildren of Detroiter Dennis M. Schultz. A lead and bass guitarist who for years balanced his day job with his passion for music, Schultz has had the notion to do this album since the 1990s. Some of the songs were written twenty years ago. He finally assembled the musicians and singers to create this album. The instrumentals, such as “Seasons Past (Deep Reflection),” “Eternal Voyager,” and the title track, are straightforward inspirational jazz pieces with Mike Joseph (alto sax), Michael Elder (tenor sax) and Darren McKinney (soprano sax) ...

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The Abyssinian Mass – Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis

Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis Featuring Damien Sneed and Chorale Le Chateau The Abyssinian Mass Blue Engine Records (release date: March 18, 2016) www.blueenginerecords.org By Bob Marovich During the sermon section of The Abyssinian Mass, Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts III welcomes congregants with a statement that is the underlying theme of the piece: “Everybody has a place in the house of God.” Unity in diversity under one supreme deity is the binding agent of The Abyssinian Mass, written in partnership with Harlem’s historic Abyssinian Baptist Church by Pulitzer Prize-winning jazz musician, composer, and educator Wynton Marsalis. Blending ...

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Spirit 2 Spirit – Messages

Spirit 2 Spirit Messages Shekinah Records (release date: April 24, 2015) www.spirit2spiritmessagemusic.com By Bob Marovich Messages, Michael and Denny Jenkins’s latest album as the duo Spirit 2 Spirit, is as much about the music as the message. That’s not surprising, considering Spirit 2 Spirit is best known for its musicianship.  The  Jenkins’s are dubbed the “Earth Wind & Fire of Gospel” for how they blend smooth jazz, sweet soul, funk, R&B, and gospel with inspirational commentary.  Spirit 2 Spirit is EWF in a mellow mood, however, as its guitars offer introspective jazz riffs while chimes tinkle, a flute pipes delicate ...

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“Blessed” – Big Mike feat. Ja’Net Miller

“Blessed” Big Mike feat. Ja’Net Miller (Wallace) From the Rhythm Section Entertainment CD Young Man Old Soul www.rhythmsectionent.com Sandwiched between guitarist Big Mike Hart’s tributes to James Brown on his otherwise smooth jazz CD, Young Man Old Soul, is “Blessed,” an inspirational piece led by Sacramento songstress Ja’Net Miller (Wallace). To a finger popping beat featuring prominent acoustic rhythm guitar, Miller encourages listeners that trouble doesn’t last always because we are blessed beyond measure. So keep the faith, she concludes in a breathy, languid tone, as if waking up with this essential truth still lingering from a dream.

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Derrick “Doc” Pearson – No Greater Love (CD/DVD)

Derrick “Doc” Pearson No Greater Love IAM Music (2015) By Bob Marovich No Greater Love, a CD/DVD retrospective of the IAM Music Company of Clinton, Maryland, is a celebration of the company’s ten years of existence and a greatest hits package for IAM Music’s co-founder, Derrick “Doc” Pearson, who participates in one way or another on all of the Scripture-based music selections. A versatile bass player, singer, songwriter, and producer, Pearson (“Doc” stands for Disciple of Christ), cut his musical teeth on 1970s and 1980s soft soul and funk while working with the likes of the O’Jays and Whispers. The songs ...

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JGM Pick of the Week: September 21, 2015

“Love Vs. the World” Xavier O’Connor Testimony Records (2015) www.cdbaby.com/cd/xavieroconnor2 With its finger-popping beat and modern big band sound, “Love Vs. the World” pits protagonist Xavier O’Connor against a variety of anthropomorphic emotions, including jealousy, fear, and hate, that invade his space like comic book villains. But alas, just as Jesus defeated Satan, our man whips the negative emotions with that crazy little thing called love. Xavier O’Connor hails from Delray Beach, Florida. A product of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, O’Connor took classical music lessons, and attended a fine arts high school and Oakwood College. He wrote, produced, recorded, ...

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Gerald “Da Gospel Truth” Jones Presents The Independent Spirit, Vol. 1

Various Artists Gerald “Da Gospel Truth” Jones Presents The Independent Spirit, Volume 1 (release date: September 4, 2015) www.ispiritmusic.com By Bob Marovich Industry insiders will tell you that some of the best gospel music is not being heard on mainstream gospel radio. It’s being produced by independent, or indie, artists. That should not surprise anyone. It is the case with most music genres. It has been that way for decades. Artists typically do their finest work during their “hungry” or “salad” days. And every artist was once an independent. James Cleveland. Kirk Franklin. Mahalia Jackson. The Caravans. The father of ...

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Akita Steen Smith – A Long Time Coming (EP)

Akita Steen Smith A Long Time Coming Akita Steen Smith (2014) http://altmgtmktc.com/akita-steen/ By Bob Marovich “It’s been a long time coming,” Akita Steen Smith sings on the title track of her five-cut EP. No doubt it has been a journey, but A Long Time Coming suggests that the Detroit singer is not yet at the finish line. This independently-produced project by indie vocalist Smith is contemporary gospel steeped in smooth jazz arrangements and musicianship. Less is more, as the saying goes, and it would have been good advice for this project. In more instances than fewer, too much is going on musically, especially ...

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