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Jazz and gospel come together on Ruth Naomi Floyd's Root to the Fruit, where she sings original material with a theatrical delivery. She works with a stellar jazz ensemble that includes flutist James Newton, tenor saxophonist Gary Thomas, bassist Reggie Washington and pianist James Weidman in feature roles, emphasizing the freedom that jazz can add to a setting. They improvise alongside the vocalist and help to relate a message of spiritual faith and understanding.
Floyd's strong voice fills the room with electric energy as she provides a convincing argument. "Sometimes I feel like a motherless child, she sings mournfully with Matthew Parrish on bass, sending her message to the four winds with authority. As flute and melodica enter the conversation, the scene builds up to a fiery boil. Together, they stir up an emotional confrontation that penetrates the back row of the upper balcony. Jazz and gospel reach out and touch everyone through their respective characteristic emotions. In this case, the jazz provides a lighter, rhythmic freedom, while the gospel keeps on pushing with dramatic force.
Floyd's emotional connection with James Newton comes as no surprise, since she is a flutist herself. She's aware of the value that this instrument can offer when hoping to spread peace and joy. His contributions on the album go much further than peace and joy, however, building the intensity level considerably where desired.
The program balances jazz and gospel equally. Floyd brings a dramatic vocal quality to the session that's steeped in both styles, and several instrumental tracks prove as inspirational as the singer's messages. With a powerful vocal delivery that sometimes borders on spoken word, Ruth Naomi Floyd convinces solemnly with an eloquent grace.
Track Listing: No Hiding Place; Mere Breath; Oh, Freedom; God is My Shepherd; Where?; Dagarth
Personnel: Ruth Naomi Floyd: vocals; James Weidman: piano, organ, melodica; James Newton: flute; Gary Thomas: tenor saxophone; Monica McIntyre: cello; Matthew Parrish, Tyrone Brown: acoustic bass; Ron Howerton: percussion; Reggie Washington: electric bass; Ralph Peterson, Mark Prince: drums.