Gospel Jazz

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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Mechelle Johnson – “Urgent”

“Urgent” Mechelle Johnson Al-Go-Rhythm (2015) On “Urgent,” Memphis-based gospel singer Mechelle Johnson scats, swoons, whooos, and reads lines with rhythmic staccato accents, performing with more jazz than gospel in her voice. Her well-honed performance approach supports the song’s premise, which encourages listeners to go beyond the church walls and “into the highways and hedges” to deliver souls to God. The melody of this smooth jazz arrangement contains a bluesy twist, though the lyrics are inspirational, as Johnson charges listeners to accept discipleship and “shine for Him” through good works. Have a listen yourself: “Urgent”

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JGM Pick of the Week: July 20, 2015

“Back to Basics 2.0 – The Remix” Mel Holder feat. Gerald Alston Psalmist Music Group (2015) www.melholder.com There’s a first time for everything, and saxophonist Mel Holder’s single, “Back to Basics,” may be the first gospel song to include a slithery klezmer riff. A chugging beat doubles the tempo of the original “Back to Basics” as guest vocalist Gerald Alston of the Manhattans reflects back on the power and the glory of old school church. He implores listeners to “get back to the rudiments: prayer, praise, worship, and the Word.” Born in Queens, New York, of Panamanian descent, the Grammy- and ...

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Kirk Whalum on Jazz: A Way to “Experience the Savior Who is Indescribable”

By Bob Marovich From Mary Lou Williams to John Coltrane, jazz musicians over the years have, as Kirk Whalum puts it, “made a spiritual offering through their music.” With his celebrated series, The Gospel According to Jazz, Whalum makes his own spiritual offering, using jazz to describe the indescribable Savior. The DVD version of Whalum’s latest installment, The Gospel According to Jazz, Chapter IV, was released yesterday (May 19). JGM’s Bob Marovich spoke with the jazz legend about the new project and the link between jazz and spirituality. JGM: What encouraged you to do the first Gospel According to Jazz project? ...

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Kirk Whalum: The Gospel According to Jazz, Chapter IV (DVD)

Kirk Whalum The Gospel According to Jazz, Chapter IV – Film/DVD Running time: 148 minutes Rendezvous Music (release date: May 19, 2015) www.kirkwhalum.com By Bob Marovich Whether you did or did not purchase the CD version of Kirk Whalum’s The Gospel According to Jazz, Chapter IV when it was released this past March, you will enjoy the DVD version of the concert, set for release this Tuesday. The DVD captures the Chapter IV concert at the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, New York.  Live performance segments are interspersed with conversations with Whalum on a variety of subjects, from being a musician to the spirit ...

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Robert E. Person – Love Divine

Robert E. Person Love Divine REP Music (2015) www.roberteperson.com By Bob Marovich The first thing you notice when listening to Robert E. Person’s new album, Love Divine, is the bigness of the singer’s voice. It’s Broadway musical big, regardless of whether Person is summoning deep bass notes or launching into falsetto. His repertory reflects his vocal blend, a veritable consommé of jazz, pop, gospel, and classical influences. On Love Divine, his fourth album, Person celebrates the sacredness of love, mankind’s most essential but most misunderstood emotion. The album’s dozen selections come from the pens of talented songwriters—from Allyn Johnson’s ethereal ...

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Katherine Burton – The Lord is On My Side

Katherine Burton The Lord is On My Side New Dawn Music (2014) www.KatherineBurton.com By Bob Marovich The violin has had a dalliance with gospel music throughout the genre’s history, although more so as of late, due to the cross-pollination of musical styles in the inspirational/gospel category. Brooke “Viosocalist” Alford and Kersten Stevens are two musicians who have recorded gospel jazz projects recently with violin as the main instrument. Katherine Burton is another. A graduate of Temple University College of Music and instrumentalist at a variety of gospel conventions, including the Gospel Workshop of America, Burton rosins up the bow to ...

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Reflections – Ryan D. Rutley, B.A.

Ryan D. Rutley, B.A. Reflections Psalms Group (2014) www.cdbaby.com/Artist/RyanDRutleyBA By Bob Marovich Ryan Rutley’s Reflections is an album of mostly instrumental smooth jazz, or call it inspirational jazz, if you prefer. Rutley’s band consists of Charles “Chuck” Clark on drums, brother Darick on bass, Darryl Bebee on saxophone, and Levi Baker also on drums. Ryan Rutley wrote the compositions, lends lead vocals on “Forgiven,” and produced the album. Brother Darick’s handsome vocal and Bebee’s effervescent sax solo on “Your Grace is Amazing” make the selection the high point of the album. The song riffs on the lyric of “Amazing Grace,” ...

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Noreen Crayton – Divine Radiance

Noreen Crayton Divine Radiance Angel Star Music (release date: January 2015) www.noreencrayton.com By Bob Marovich Divine Radiance is the third sacred music album from New York-native Noreen Crayton. While her career includes significant musical stage work in the U.S. and overseas, Crayton has gospel roots and sings with the praise and worship team at Convent Avenue Baptist Church in Harlem. Crayton nearly plays all the bases on Divine Radiance—from writer and arranger to performer and executive producer. She does employ a handful of musicians to assist her on some tracks. Musically, the album offers a sample of everything from an ...

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“Thicker Than Water” Season Two Opens with More Life than Lifestyle

“Thicker than Water” Season Two begins Sunday, January 4, 2015, 9:00 p.m. ET/PT Bravo Media www.nbcunv.com/bravo By Bob Marovich If last season’s premiere of the Tankard Family’s reality television show, “Thicker Than Water,” was about lifestyle, the opener of the second season is about life. The opening episode, to air this evening, opens with the wealthy extended family of gospel jazz artist Ben Tankard preparing for daughter Cyrene’s high school graduation party at the self-proclaimed Tankard Palace in Murfreesboro, Tennessee (although I think I heard son Benji refer to it, with tongue in cheek, as “Bentown”). Several Tankard children rue, ...

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