12 years after saxophonist and composer Kirk Whalum issued the first The Gospel According to Jazz
recording comes its third chapter. Recorded live at Reid Temple in
Glenn Dale, MD, the set contains a stellar backing band that includes Reginald Veal on upright bass, organist Jerry Peters, percussionist Lenny Castro, trumpeter Aaron Broadus,
and additional horns, vocals, and backing vocals.
As is customary for
these recordings, there are also a number of special guests including George Duke, Lalah Hathaway, Doc Powell, John Stoddart,
and a slew of family members including sons, uncles, cousins, and
nephews. The double-disc soundtrack contains the entire concert.
Disc one begins with Whalum playing solo on “Call to Worship,” a Coltrane-esque
recitation of hymns in modal fashion. Things get funkier on the New
Orleans-inspired funky yet straight-ahead jazz in Whalum’s original
“Fit to Battle,” before moving toward Latin-tinged jazz on “Ananias and
Sapphira.” Hathaway and Stoddart do a lovely job on the Nat Adderley-Luther Vandross tune “Make Me a Believer"; they are stellar on “He’s Been Just That Good,” and Stoddardt shines on his original “If You Ever Need Me,” with inventive and elegant scat singing. Duke’s
piano is gorgeously lyrical on “Because You Loved Me.”
contains the funky soul-jazz of “Jesus Africa Jesus,” with its faux
reggae rhythm section underscoring Whalum's soprano before it becomes a
rap tune. Hathaway
makes a return appearance on his “It’s What I Do,” and on a very
contemporary gospel reading of “The Thrill Is Gone” that keeps B.B. King's blues feel intact. One of the two bonus tracks features Bishop T.D. Jakes and his wife Serita on “You Are Everything,” that echoes Barry White's
amorous recitations -- only quite wholesomely -- to close it out.
Ultimately, this is a set that appeals more to Whalum’s gospel fans
than to his jazz fans, but that has nothing whatsoever to do with the
quality of what’s here. All the musical performances are top-notch and
walk his wonderful trademark line between straight-ahead and
contemporary jazz, urban gospel and R&B. This the finest chapter in
the series yet.