Bassist/composer Ike Sturm has served as Director of Music for the Jazz Ministry at Saint Peter's Church in Manhattan since 2004 and presents a love offering of jazz and sacred music in Shelter of Trees. The set is elevating yet soothing, centered yet diverse as Sturm's band: Evergreen, stretches the boundaries of what might be confined to the label of consecrated music.
The recording begins with the jubilant "Rejoice" with the perfect balance of music and vocals, its diversity presented in a spacious rural-esque backdrop that's also found in the appropriately titled "River" which flows with power and grace. The band is comprised of jazz notables such as pianist Fabian Almazan, saxophonist Loren Stillman, and vibraphonist Chris Dingman who provide inspired performances under Sturm's thoughtful compositions lifted even higher by beautiful singers which include the bandleader's wife, Misty Ann Sturm.
There are plush vocal harmonies ("Turning Point"); a silky groove penciled with rock music aesthetics ("Shelter of Trees") and absorbing melodies ("Guide"). Every track has its own strength, with a possible apex being reached in "Sanctus" where instruments, voice, and lyrics converge and move toward a rapturous conclusion.
Shelter of Trees is dedicated to Sturm's father Fred Sturm, a respected jazz composer and teacher who passed in 2014. It also celebrates the 50th Anniversary of Jazz at Saint Peter's Church whose rich history and diverse programs continue to espouse community and fellowship. This is a fitting release that makes a joyful noise.
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