Reviews

“Too Hot to Handel” Indescribable, Says Pianist Alvin Waddles: “You Have to Experience It”

By Robert M. Marovich Nineteen years ago, Suzanne Mallare Acton, music director and conductor of Too Hot to Handel: The Gospel Messiah, was in a real jam. Her pianist, Detroit jazz legend Harold McKinney, pulled out of the jazz-gospel interpretation of George Frideric Handel’s Messiah just days before opening night. Needing a musician who could read a score and improvise, she picked up the phone and called the one pianist she knew could fill both bills: Alvin Waddles. Entering Little Rock Baptist Church in Detroit for the orchestra dress rehearsal, Waddles settled himself at at the piano and read through the ...

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National Museum of Gospel Music Hosts “Voices of Celebration & Thanks” December 10

From a press release: The National Museum of Gospel Music and Pilgrim Baptist Church invite you to join us for our holiday concert – VOICES OF CELEBRATION & THANKS 2022, hosted by your gospel sister Pam Morris! On December 10 at 7 pm, help us raise the roof during an evening of music. Artists scheduled to appear include: Bishop Leonard Scott. Jason Clayborn, Ruth La’Ontra, Young Men 4 Christ, Pilgrim Baptist Church Choir & others. Advance registration is required and space is limited. Doors open at 6:00 pm. Reservations close Wednesday, December 7. COVID-19 Protocols: Masks are strongly recommended but ...

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Regina Belle – My Colorful Christmas

Regina Belle My Colorful Christmas Tashi3 Entertainment / Altavoz Distribution (release date: November 1, 2022) http://iamreginabelle.com/ By Robert M. Marovich My Colorful Christmas, the first yuletide album from GRAMMY Awardee Regina Belle, and issued on her own imprint, Tashi3 Entertainment, traverses mostly familiar holiday fare. Traditional carols and more recently-composed Christmas songs receive bubbly jazz and R&B arrangements tagged with improvisatory, and sometimes downright evangelistic, codas. Indeed, the spiritual codas from Belle and her background vocalists are what distinguish this album from other Christmas collections by popular singers. For example, Belle tags the Latin-flavored “Silent Night” with a sobering allusion ...

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JGM Pick of the Week – November 21, 2022

“God is Great” Kara Nichole Independent (release date: September 5, 2022) www.karanichole.com By Robert M. Marovich San Antonio, Texas, worship leader Kara Nicole converts the worship language of Psalm 145 into an appropriately joyful song called “God is Great.” The diminutive Kara is in complete command of this performance, singing her own praises while directing the audience to follow her lead in filling the sky with gratitude to God. The relentless rhythm is ideal for the sentiments of the song. Given that Kara was still riding high in the spirit by the conclusion, “God is Great” could have (and perhaps ...

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Sylvia Fedrick – Syl’s Combo 2022 (EP)

Sylvia Fedrick Syl’s Combo 2022 Independent (release date: 2022) www.sylviafedrick.com By Robert M. Marovich For as often as I’ve heard Chicago gospel singer Sylvia Fedrick, it didn’t strike me until listening to her EP Syl’s Combo 2022 that if you close your eyes, you would swear you are listening to a male high tenor like Maxwell or Prince. The best example of this is the opening (and the EP’s best) track, “Miracles.” To a relaxed but soulful groove, Fedrick offers her testimony to show that miracles do happen. And if you do, she sings, “come and receive your miracle.” Practicing ...

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Sondra Busby – We Need Your Presence

Sondra Busby We Need Your Presence Independent (release date: August 30, 2019) By Robert M. Marovich South Carolina singer Sondra Busby might be a contender for the title of “queen of the vamp.” On her 2019 album We Need Your Presence, she tags several of her songs with a quartet-style vamp, improvising with an evangelist’s zeal over repetitive lines sung by the background vocalists, which are actually Busby, multi-tracked. Among these are “The Place Where You Are Near,” “You’ve Been Good to Me,” and the title track. Busby steps right into the vamp, offering church mantras designed to rouse the ...

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Brian Courtney Wilson – Transitions

Brian Courtney Wilson Transitions Motown Gospel (release date: October 22, 2022) www.motowngospel.com By Robert M. Marovich On Transitions, gospel singer-songwriter Brian Courtney Wilson wraps his honeyed baritone around mostly new selections in an atmosphere set up to simulate a live impromptu jam session. Whether intentional or not, much of Transitions feels like a musical kin of Marvin Gaye’s 1971 What’s Going On, but with the aid of modern production techniques. Not only does Wilson’s vocal delivery evoke Gaye’s earnest crooning, but the loping rhythm of “All I Can Say” and the bongo-like percussion at the opening of “Monday’s Pain” and ...

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JGM Pick of the Week – November 7, 2022

“Impossible” Pastor Mike Jr. Black Smoke Music Worldwide (release date: October 22, 2022) By Robert M. Marovich Stylistically, Pastor Mike Jr.’s new single, “Impossible,” evokes the heavy-duty evangelism of Kirk Franklin and James Fortune by combining singing and preaching to express gratitude to God for doing what nobody else can do. Indeed, Fortune is the featured vocalist on the single as he, PMJ, and the background vocalists sing consistently in the red on this litany of ways in which the hand of God heals and protects. With six Stellar Awards this year, including his second consecutive Artist of the Year ...

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Richie “Ace High” Acevedo – Parable

Richie “Ace High” Acevedo Parable HipHopTown USA / Symphonic Distribution (release date: August 30, 2022) www.hiphoptown.us By Robert M. Marovich On Parable, hip hop artist Richie “Ace High” Acevedo chronicles his faith walk by leaning on his secular rap experience, with its emphasis on clever similes and incisive beats. When they are not rapid, Acevedo’s rhymes are severe, thick, and measured. He’s a far better rapper than a singer. Most significantly, he captures the attention of listeners by diving into the pop music playbook, incorporating repetitive hooks, often repeating the same word or line in lock-step fashion. It’s what makes ...

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Minister Redeemed – So Good

Minister Redeemed So Good Musgrove Music Distribution (release date: April 15, 2022) By Robert M. Marovich The overarching theme of So Good can be surmised from the artist’s moniker: Minister Redeemed. The EP chronicles holy hip hop artist Elder Thaddeus K. Bruce’s redemption from “the dope house” of addiction to crack cocaine to the church house. He’s no longer “kickin’ it with the enemy,” as he details in “That’s Not My Name Anymore,” but is praising the Father for a glorious redemption. As such, So Good is jam-packed with sung and rapped rhymes of praise and worship. To quote a ...

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