Gospel Jazz

“Come Back” – Elain Thomas

“Come Back” Elain Thomas From the EP Transformations Independent (release date: October 6, 2020) www.reverbnation.com/elainthomas By Robert M. Marovich Anchored by bold and insistent Brazilian percussion, “Come Back” is Elain Thomas’s finest single to date. It’s a rhythmic rumination on God’s constancy, a conversation between the self-styled jazz psalmist and her Savior. In her resonant contralto, Thomas delivers the Lord’s declaration, “Backslider, you belong to me,” not as a command but as a given. Many songs lasting two-and-a-half minutes are fine where they are, but “Come Back” could have gone on much longer without any loss of listener interest.

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Elder Randall Ogans Sr. – What a Friend

Elder Randall Ogans Sr. What a Friend Alpha 7 Ministries (release date: October 1, 2020) www.alpha7.org By Bob Marovich Elder Randall Ogans Sr.’s What a Friend contains classic hymns bathed in smooth instrumental arrangements. Well, almost. “We Need to Pray” is the one and only track with lyrics or, more specifically, a spoken word meditation by Elder Ogans. Over the melody of the Lords of Harmony’s 1965 single, “If God Gave Us Everything,” Ogans shares a real-life parable about a homeless shelter to remind listeners that there but for the grace of God go we. Otherwise, it’s instrumental jazz played ...

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David Billingsley – House of David, Volume 1

David Billingsley House of David – Volume 1 Intersound (release date: July 31, 2020) www.billingsleymusic.com By Bob Marovich Only two months after his album debut, Hymns from Grandma’s Living Room, jazz pianist David Billingsley has released his sophomore project, House of David, the first volume of self-penned instrumental jazz compositions. A Racine, Wisconsin, native now living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Billingsley is founder and executive director of the Billingsley School of Music and Arts, an academy that offers K-12 students access to arts education. The selections on House of David – Volume 1 are contemplative and thoughtful, designed to conjure the ...

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Ben Tankard Launches “Sunday’s Best Musician” Contest

Nashville, TN — He is known as The Godfather of Gospel Jazz. He is also known as an airplane pilot and mentor, a former NBA player, a television star, a pastor of a thriving church, and dedicated a father and loving patriarch to a large family (Oh yes..and husband to Jewel). He is Ben Tankard. Noted as the producer who discovered Yolanda Adams, Tankard has almost 30 years of award-winning, platinum-selling, chart-topping albums, and radio hits. He has 16 Stellar Awards, is a Stellar Award Honors Hall of Fame inductee, was nominated for a 2019 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding ...

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Jonathan Butler – Christmas Together

Jonathan Butler Christmas Together Artistry Music / Mack Avenue Music Group (release date: October 4, 2019) www.mackavenue.com By Bob Marovich Christmas Together is the second holiday-themed album for singer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Butler, one that he recorded and mixed in his home studio in Southern California. Whenever the album isn’t offering up dreamy instrumental arrangements of classic Christmas carols by some of smooth jazz’s best-known musicians, it is evoking the soulfulness of Stevie Wonder. You hear Wonder’s frictionless resonance in Butler’s lead vocals on “Winter Wonderland” (no pun intended) and “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel.” “Mary Did You Know,” ...

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Kirk Whalum – Humanite’

Kirk Whalum Humanite’ Mack Avenue Music Group (release date: October 11, 2019) www.mackavenue.com By Bob Marovich If music is a universal language, the jazz idiom seems particularly equipped to express the essence of every culture. In doing so, it has the power to unify the world. I suspect saxophonist Kirk Whalum would agree. His latest release, Humanite’, is a love poem to world harmony. While not overtly religious, the album contains themes like freedom, love, hope, and optimism that resonate throughout various religions. But rather than lean on a higher power to solve every problem, Humanite’ suggests that it is ...

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Sanctified Soul – Joyful

Sanctified Soul Joyful Rampart Street Music (release date: 2018) www.rampartstreetmusic.com/cd-joyfulss.htm By Bob Marovich Gospel saxophonist Harold Rayford once said that jazz and gospel are first cousins. If that’s so, New Orleans produced some of the first cousins’ earliest progenitors—from King Oliver and Louis Armstrong to Mahalia Jackson and Bessie Griffin. There’s also the New Orleans ensemble Sanctified Soul, which offers helpings of jazz and gospel, as well as soul and R&B. The group lives up to its name on its latest album, Joyful, and the collection of gospel, inspirational, and classic jazz songs lives up to the album title (which, ...

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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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