Gospel Jazz

Cameron Ross – Power: Instrumental Praise & Worship

Cameron Ross Power: Instrumental Praise & Worship Cameron Ross Music (release date: April 19, 2018) www.cameronrossmusic.com By Bob Marovich Jazz saxophonist Cameron Ross’s sophomore album Power lives up to its subtitle. Ross renders contemporary Praise & Worship favorites in the smooth jazz format and then commences to improvise on their melodies on saxophone. Songs such as Israel Houghton’s “You Are Good,” Martha Munizzi’s “Glorious,” and William Murphy’s “You Reign” get this restful but restless treatment. Without lyric context, however, songs such as “Jump” and the title track are virtually indistinguishable from non-sacred jazz instrumentals. A music educator in the Memphis school system, Ross grew ...

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Robert E. Person – Classic Covers (EP)

Robert E. Person Classic Covers (EP) REP Music (release date: June 1, 2018) www.roberteperson.com By Bob Marovich Washington DC singer Robert E. Person has peppered his previous projects with songs representing a variety of genres. His latest release, Classic Covers, is more of a jazz than a sacred EP, though it includes his very fine recent single, a collaboration with Richard Smallwood on the latter’s 1989 “I Give You Praise.” Among the classic covers Person offers are the Stylistics’ social commentary piece “People Make the World Go Round,” and “My Favorite Things,” from The Sound of Music. Both benefit from deft ...

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PJ Morgan – The Transparency Project

PJ Morgan The Transparency Project 1DMV Music Group (release date: June 1, 2018) By Bob Marovich The Transparency Project is the debut instrumental jazz album from Stellar Award-nominated producer and keyboardist Paul Lawrence Morgan, aka PJ Morgan, who Ben Tankard had named as his music director and is currently band director for the Washington Metro area megachurch, Reid Temple AME. The CD’s first two tracks, “Closer” and “Hit the Floor,” are conventional smooth jazz pieces most notable for Morgan’s nimble keyboard work. After these cuts, the album moves into a more explicitly sacred mood, featuring newly-composed songs with vocals (most of them ...

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Daniel D. – Tis So Sweet: Instrumental Violin Hymns

Daniel D. Tis So Sweet: Instrumental Violin Hymns DD Productions (release date: December 3, 2017) www.danieldmusic.com By Bob Marovich Instrumental sacred music in the African American tradition goes back decades. In fact, two of the first six sides cut by Arizona Dranes, a musician for the Church of God in Christ and among the earliest African American gospel artists to record, were sacred instrumentals (“Crucifixion” and “Sweet Heaven Is My Home”). In the contemporary gospel era, piano and organ soloists have been joined by saxophonists, trumpet players, and violinists, among others. Counted among the professional sacred violinists are Kersten Stevens, Brooke ...

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Tim Bowman – Into the Blue

Tim Bowman Into the Blue I.M. Records / Purpose Jazz / NIA Music Distribution LLC (release date: September 8, 2017) www.TimBowman.com By Bob Marovich Tim Bowman’s seventh album, Into the Blue, is not a gospel album but a collection of smooth jazz performances, mostly instrumentals, that includes a little of everything, including inspirational and sacred selections. Bowman, who was musical director for the Winans until he embarked on a solo career in 1987, plays electric guitar with the soulful finesse of Wes Montgomery and the fluidity of Chet Atkins. Kirk Whalum kept coming to mind as I listened to the CD ...

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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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