American roots music can be divided into four broad genres: blues, jazz, country and gospel. A Venn diagram of the relationship of these four would reveal an area of intersection of all these musical elements. It is in this area that the jazz-gospel group Come Sunday achieves its durable yet delicate goal of divining these spirits in equal measure.
Come Sunday's name is derived from the Duke Ellington song of the same name, made famous in his collaboration with Mahalia Jackson on Black, Brown and Beige (Columbia, 1943). In the spirit of that collaboration, guitarist Mike Allemana conceived arrangements for the group's quartet of vocalists, further supported by bass and drums, bringing the entire group to the septet level.
Come Sunday's self produced debut, Crosscurrents, extends the metaphor of the title into the kinetic performance of the music. The book chosen for the group lends few surprises, but the performances are fresh and enjoyable, and most important, educational in their stimulating of further listening in a historic direction. "Keep Your Hand on the Plow" throws all the way back to the pioneering work of the Lomaxes in originally capturing this music in the 1930s and '40s.
"Jesus Gave Me Water," from the Soul Stirrers' songbook is performed sweetly with the great Sam Cooke in mind. Stevie Wonder's "Heaven is 10 Zillion Light Years Away" is one of the more contemporary songs treated by the group. The group's namesake tune and the standard "Deep River," allow Allemana to show his wares alongside these fine singers, creating an alchemic eutectic of serious spiritual gravity. These types of genre-mixing projects often result in hindered results. Not so here.
Keep Your Hand On The Plow; Jesus Gave Me Water; Trouble Of The
World; Down By The Riverside; Come Sunday; Wade In The Water; Heaven
Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away; I'm On My Way to Canaan's Land; Too
Close To Heaven; The Christian Testimony; Just A Closer Walk With Thee;
My Rock; Deep River.
Bill Brickley, Lindsay Weinberg, Alton Smith, Sue Demel: vocals; Mike
Allemana: guitars; Al Ehrich: bass; Lenny Marsh: drums.