5 Stars

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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Jonathan Nelson – Fearless

Jonathan Nelson Fearless Light Records/Entertainment One Music (release date: March 18, 2016) www.jonathannelson.us By Bob Marovich Who would have imagined, back in 2004 when he appeared on the national gospel music scene, that the irrepressible new-school gospel artist Tye Tribbett would someday lead an old school-style praise break? That’s exactly what he does at the conclusion of Fearless, the live recording from Stellar Award-winner Jonathan Nelson. The eight-plus minute “I Give You Glory,” with Tribbett as pastor/song leader, rides along on a praise break beat, tying Nelson’s fifth album in the splendid ribbon and bow it deserves. Recorded live at the Faith ...

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Holly Ann – Light and Bloom

Holly Ann Light and Bloom Deeper Well Records (release date: January 13, 2016) www.deeper-well.com By Bob Marovich Last year, Liz Vice demonstrated that some of the best spiritual music doesn’t have to come from established channels of gospel and CCM talent. Portland, Oregon’s Christian alternative singer-songwriter Holly Ann Winchell (aka Holly Ann) is another pleasant discovery in this same vein.  Released last month on Deeper Well Records, her Light and Bloom is a great big introspective thank you letter to God. The album’s praise songs are atmospheric and minimal, Holly Ann’s voice beguiling and poignant. Although her publicity cites Mazzy Star as ...

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Christians Catch Hell: Gospel Roots 1976-79

Various Artists Christians Catch Hell: Gospel Roots 1976-79 Honest Jon’s Records http://honestjons.com/shop/artist/Christians_Catch_Hell By Bob Marovich Those of us who moved and grooved to 1970s hits by the likes of George McCrae and K.C. and the Sunshine Band on Henry Stone’s TK label had no idea the veteran record man had a subsidiary reserved for the sacred. He did.  It was called Gospel Roots and, thanks to Honest Jon’s Records, Christians Catch Hell is a top-quality retrospective of the label’s life and times. The title and front cover of the album reference the extended title track of the Reverend Edna Isaac and the ...

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Dynamic Abraham Brothers – Use What I Have

The Dynamic Abraham Brothers Use What I Have New Ham Records By Bob Marovich I don’t know what else the Dynamic Abraham Brothers could possibly have done to make Use What I Have a more archetypal gospel quartet album. First, the quintessential quartet drive tempo quickens the title track as well as the handclapping “God Wants to Move” and “No More Yokes.” Whereas gospel quartet albums today have one, maybe two, drive songs, Use What I Have has three. Second, the lyrics cover well-trodden quartet territory, which means country church wisdom that has been the foundation of gospel music for ...

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Pilgrim Travelers: Gospel Boogie – Rare Recordings 1946-1957

Pilgrim Travelers Gospel Boogie – Rare Recordings 1946-1957 Gospel Friend (release date: December 18, 2015) www.gospelfriend.com By Bob Marovich Per Notini of Gospel Friend has developed a handsome catalog of well-produced collections of classic gospel music that covers quartet, choir, and piano-led groups alike. His latest production, Gospel Boogie – Rare Recordings 1946-57, spotlights one of the top hit makers during gospel’s golden age: the Pilgrim Travelers. What is most striking about this 27-selection retrospective is how it aurally captures the California quartet as it altered its sound to keep up with the musical times, but without diluting one ounce of ...

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Packin’ Up: The Best of Marion Williams

Packin’ Up: The Best of Marion Williams Marion Williams Spirit Feel/Shanachie www.shanachie.com By Bob Marovich If you thought you’d heard everything Marion Williams recorded, alone or with the Ward Singers or Stars of Faith, think again. In addition to the thirteen hand-picked solo tracks by Williams’s longtime friend and producer, Anthony Heilbut (The Gospel Sound, The Fan Who Knew Too Much), Packin’ Up: The Best of Marion Williams features thirteen previously unreleased tracks. One of the unreleased gems showcases Williams with the Ward Singers at the 1957 Newport Folk Festival.  The cuts span the years 1957 to 1993.  Heilbut’s extensive ...

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Jonathan McReynolds – Life Music: Stage Two

Jonathan McReynolds Life Music: Stage Two eOne/Tehillah Music Group (release date: September 18, 2015) www.jonathanmcreynolds.com By Bob Marovich Life Music: Stage Two couldn’t be a better showcase for Jonathan McReynolds. The follow-up album to the 26-year-old singer-songwriter-musician’s 2012 debut, Life Music, Stage Two is the musical manifestation of his honest and spiritually grounded approach to dealing with the vicissitudes of daily life. The Chicago-born McReynolds is one of the few gospel solo artists who plays acoustic guitar. His mellow blend of acoustic neo-soul with churchy conviction may be somewhat novel today, but it mirrors the intimacy of his lyrics, which feel like ...

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The Jones Family Singers – Live from Mt. Zion

The Jones Family Singers Live from Mt. Zion Arts + Labor (2015) www.thejonesfamilysingers.com By Bob Marovich At one point in Live from Mt. Zion, Alexis Jones, the force of nature who is the Jones Family Singers’ primary lead vocalist, says the group gets asked why they don’t sing rock and roll. Oh but we do, she explains. “I can rock in Jesus and I can rooolllll in the Holy Ghost!” Spiritual rocking, rolling, swaying, and dancing are compulsory accompaniments to the Jones Family Singers’ devotional repertory—from the group, the live audience, and the at-home listener. And for good reason. Live ...

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Dr. F. James Clark and the Shalom Church (City of Peace) Mass Choir – Simply Amazing

Dr. F. James Clark & the Shalom Church (City of Peace) Mass Choir Simply Amazing (Release Date: June 16, 2015) www.shalomccop.org By Bob Marovich This debut project from Dr. F. James Clark’s Shalom Church (City of Peace) Mass Choir of Florissant, Missouri, captured my interest the second I saw that the Reverend Quincy Fielding Jr. was recording consultant, composer, and vocalist; and composer-conductor Dello Thedford is the church’s minister of music. Given such estimable talent at the helm, it is no surprise that Simply Amazing features a well-trained, well-rehearsed choir capable of rendering a passing parade of contemporary sacred music ...

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