First of all, kudos to Steven Dolins of The Sirens Records for the consistently high production quality of his releases. This is the second project I’ve heard from this Highland Park, Illinois-based label that has as its mission the preservation of roots piano. Each CD sounds as if the musicians are performing in your living room. This independent label puts some major labels to shame when it comes to musical clarity.
In 2003, Rev. Dwayne R. Mason, founder and pastor of Body Soul & Spirit Ministries on Chicago’s south side, graced the label with his prodigious piano talents honed through fellowship with Chicago musicians such as gospel pioneer songwriter Kenneth Morris…and plenty of practice. Among his musical inspirations, Rev. Mason cites legendary keyboardists Reverend James Cleveland and Twinkie Clark.
On his debut solo CD, Glory! Glory!, Rev. Mason deftly shifts from blues to boogie-woogie to jazz to Pentecostal piano as he plays through fourteen standards in the gospel music canon. On some tracks he seems to blend all styles together for a true musical gumbo. With no disrespect to female vocalist Sydne Evans who lends her voice capably to five of the tracks, the best cuts on the CD showcase Mason’s acoustic piano mastery, accompanied softly by Kendrick Jackson on drums. On one instrumental track in particular, “He Looked Beyond My Faults,” Rev. Mason interprets the gospel chestnut with the flair and nuance of a jazz pianist at Chicago’s Jazz Showcase or New York’s Birdland.
Many decades after Arizona Dranes showed the world how eighty-eight keys could revolutionize the sound of the worship service, Rev. Mason’s Glory! Glory! demonstrates that, when it comes to sanctified song, the piano is still king.
Grade = A