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A good dose of personal humility and devotion to a higher power can de-clutter the life and chosen form of artistic expression. In the case of pianist Sharp Radway, who comes to his gospel jazz from early musical endeavors in the church, a pure spirit of artistic expression is revealed on his debut, Hymns and Things (Introspection and Reflection).
Radway mixes solo piano, piano trio and two-horn frontline quintet offeringsvery adeptly sequencedinto an engaging and cohesive set of that speaks eloquently to the CD's subtitle. The solemn solo opener, "Sweet Hour of Prayer," gives way to the ebullient jubilation of "Savior, Like a Sheppard Lead Us," featuring saxophonists James Spaulding and Greg Tardy, both sounding like they have the spirit in themand the joy and verve to bring a congregation dancing out of the pews.
"He Looked Beyond My Faults," an inspiration for the Irish staple "Danny Boy," puts Radway's patient, supple touch and dynamic control into play, while "Leaning on Everlasting Arms," a trio offering, bounces and swings, with Radway sounding crisp in front of a shuffling rhythm.
Spaulding (on flute) and Tardy (on tenor saxophone) rejoin the core trio on "Your Decrees," taking the music into very soulful territory. Tardy's raw sound contrasts beautifully with Spaulding's silky trills. "His Eye on the Sparrow" finds Radway going it solo once again, opening up with a pensive and reverent feeling, slipping in flourishes, then building momentum and moving into a brief stride groove that eases back from the rent party to the church.
The pie chart of the art of the pianists can be sliced from anatomical origins in the head, the heart, the gut and, on Hymns and Things especially, the soul. With a humble outlook and coming from a spiritual home base, Radway has crafted a particularly fine personal statement with this debut.
Track Listing: Sweet Hour of Prayer; Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us; My Faith Looks Up to Thee; He Looked Beyond My Faults; Leaning on Everlasting Arms; Thank You, Lord; Your Decrees; His Eye Is On the Sparrow; Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross; My Tribute (To God the Glory).
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.