CD Review: And the Spirit Moved… Jonathan Blanchard (private pressing)
Available at www.jonathanblanchard.com
A bass singer and a spiritual is a match made in vocal Heaven. Likely because the lower register is a sonic metaphor for gravity, dignity, and wisdom, it fits nicely with the spirituals’ lyricism and thematic content. In truth, one can hardly think of spirituals such as “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” “Deep River,” or “Steal Away” without also imagining a deep, resonant bass voice interpreting them. This brings us to the artistry of Jonathan Blanchard.
Twenty-seven year old Memphian Jonathan Blanchard is an exceptionally gifted basso. With continued experience and study, he stands to succeed greats such as Paul Robeson and William Warfield to whom he pays tribute in his debut CD, And the Spirit Moved….
And the Spirit Moved… is a live recording of a Blanchard recital. While the first two tracks are art song and baroque pieces, respectively, the remainder of the recital features spirituals. Blanchard articulates some of them, such as “My Good Lord Done Been Here” and “Steal Away”, with great purity of vocal tone, a careful sense of spirituals dialect, and only a piano for accompaniment. Later, he interprets “Wade in the Water” with jazz scat and a wonderful jazz combo backdrop. Although his finest work can be heard on the vocal-piano tracks, he also proves that spirituals can be modernized and not lose their impact.
Blanchard’s resume includes such classic musical productions as Black Nativity, West Side Story, Your Arms Too Short to Box with God, and the late Harry Chapin’s Cotton Patch Gospel. As a member of the Atlanta Opera, the Atlanta Lyric Opera, and Capital City Opera, Blanchard adds yet more credentials, demonstrating that he is certainly moving in the Robeson/Warfield direction. His inclusion of “Water Boy” and “Old Man River” on the CD show that this journey is clearly on his mind and in his soul.
And the Spirit Moved… is available on www.jonathanblanchard.com.