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Ike Sturm: JazzMass

Woodrow Wilkins By

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There are people who believe jazz, like the blues, is unholy or "devil's music." However, the spirituality of many jazz artists comes through in their writing, and bassist/composer/arranger Ike Sturm is one of them.

Sturm is musical director for the jazz ministry at Saint Peter's Church in Manhattan. The institution has a tradition of weekly jazz services that memorialize such icons as Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk. The church commissioned Sturm to compose a jazz mass for choir, string and septet; the result, JazzMass, features Sturm accompanied by members of his family, a small cast of session musicians, saxophonists Loren Stillman and Donny McCaslin, the Saint Peter's Church Choir and a 10-piece string ensemble.

"Kyrie" has an ethereal quality, with Misty Ann Sturm's airy vocal—backed by the choir and complemented by the string section—setting the mood. Guitarist Ryan Ferreira solos, with contributions by Stillman and McCaslin. Trumpeter Ingrid Jensen steps out a bit during the ad-lib fade.

The strings are more involved in "Gloria." Misty Ann Sturm sings like a flute that utters words. At times, she and the choir sing a cappella. The rhythm section—Ike Sturm, pianist Adam Benjamin and drummer Ted Poor—provides fills, the vocalists taking a break while Stillman and McCaslin solo. They're mostly complemented by bass, drums and guitar, but the strings also join in. As the sound intensifies, the choir assists. After the music softens, and the vocalists make an appearance, Jensen solos. Benjamin underscores the next vocal passage. At nearly nine minutes, "Gloria" is an orchestral masterpiece, easily shifting from vocal to instrumental, blending both at times.

"Offertory: Stillness" is a haunting piece that features additional players: trombonist Tim Albright, violinist Sara Caswell and clarinetist Madeline Sturm. It begins softly with an instrumental interlude, followed by Misty Ann Sturm's wordless vocal, paired with Jensen's trumpet. Ike Sturm's bass is a bit stronger, and Poor stresses key points with an array of cymbals. Ferreira solos over bass and drums, with Benjamin on Rhodes.

JazzMass is a solid partnership of worship and musical improvisation. Ike Sturm composed eight of the 10 tracks, and arranged the others.

Track Listing: Kyrie; Gloria; Interlude; Hymn: Just As I Am; Offertory: Stillness; Santus; Thanksgiving; Our Father; Agnus Dei; Hymn: Shine.

Personnel: Misty Ann Sturm: voice; Loren Stillman: alto saxophone; Donny McCaslin: tenor saxophone; Ingrid Jensen: trumpet, flugelhorn; Adam Benjamin: piano, Rhodes piano; Ryan Ferreira: guitar; Ike Sturm: basses; Ted Poor: drums; Tim Albright: trombone; Sara Caswell: violin; Madeline Sturm: clarinet; Sarah Brailey: soprano; Janet Planet: soprano; Abigayl Venman: soprano; Brenda Earle: alto; Sarah Lynch: alto; Melissa Stylianou: alto; Anna Williams: alto; Charlie Christenson: tenor; Scott Murphree: tenor; John Young: tenor; Roosevelt Andre Credit: baritone; Clay Greeberg: baritone; Mark Sullivan: baritone; Sara Caswell: violin I; Caleb Burhans: violin I; Courtney Orlando: violin I; Amie Weiss: violin II; Laura Arpiainen: violin II; Sharon Gunderson: violin II; Corrina Albright: viola; Beth Myers: viola; Maria jeffers: cello; Jody Redhage: cello.

Title: JazzMass | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Self Produced

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