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The first seven tracks of this top drawer album of choral works make up an oratorio for voices and assorted instruments appropriately titled "Songs of the Spirit". Written by Scott Stroman, it is a tribute to a higher being, not a groveling , no questions asked one, but rather an anthem of hope coupled with a realization of the beauty endowed us by a creator, if we will only open our eyes and hearts. The opening lines of "Through a Glass Ceiling ". And it's upward, and onward, and over we go to places where only the brave ever know" expresses the confidence and determination of the human spirit. There's an excellent Bobby Wellins' solo on this cut accenting the song's theme. But the realization that no matter how strong and determined the human sprit, weaknesses are often exposed in the face of extreme adversity and this frailty is expressed in "The Earth Trembled and Shook".The choir announces the theme of this old time gospel tune first with Scott Stroman's trombone and then with Bobby Wellins' tenor with punctuation from the rhythm section to provide the "hallelujahs". This track will have toes tapping, hands clapping and shoulders shaking. The last three tracks - - which are not from the pen of Stroman - - are anthems to a higher being in traditional African music. "Kuja Kwake Bwana" employs that call and response device found in the music of the continent of the high sky. This device is faithfully and compellingly replicated by the chorale.
There are three choral groups with more than 70 voices which have been combined to form the Eclectic Voices. Most of the voices are young ones which provides the enthusiasm, reverence and naivete necessary to make music like this work. There are some good vocal solos. While the liner notes list their names, they are not linked to the songs on which they solo, except for Brian Abrahams' vocal on "Together Alone". 33Jazz simply has to do a better job in crediting its performers in the notes. To the label's credit, the lyrics for these interesting melodies are reproduced in the notes.
All the instrumentalists on this album are first rate. Special mention, however, must be made on the percussive contribution made by Brian Abrahams who is uncanny in his ability to provide the correct percussive statement at the right time to accentuate the message delivered by the lyrics. This is an interesting, intelligent and well-performed 59 minutes of music and is highly recommended.
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.