The Best In Recorded Music
AL Jarreau is back in stride and as smooth as ever on his new CD, Tomorrow Today (GRP). Throughout the 11-song set are gems that demonstrate why this talented vocalist has won five Grammy Awards and attracts both R&B and jazz fans. He kicks off the set with the melodic "Just to Be Loved" and the romantic "Let Me Love You," which is spiced with Boney James' sax. His duet with Vanessa L. Williams, "God's Gift to the World," is beautiful and inspirational. Then there's the double-funk of "In My Music" and "It's How You Say It." Jarreau wrote lyrics for two instrumentals, "Something That You Said," an easy-flowing ballad with trumpet from Rick Braun; and Joe Sample's "Put It Where You Want It," renamed "Puddit," which Jarreau performs as a bluesy, whimsical a cappella finale.
For Smooth Africa (Heads Up), outstanding African jazz musicians team with world-renowned guitarist Jonathan Butler and trumpeter Hugh Masekela (both natives of South Africa), American pianist Joe McBride and steel pan maestro Andy Narell to create a wonderful recording. The idea for the project was sparked in January 1999 when McBride became the first American to perform at South Africa's Jazzathon festival. Heads Up president Dave Love was impressed by the talent of local jazz musicians and returned to record them in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Instrumental solos by Butler ("Manenberg"), Masekela ("Smooth Africa") and McBride ("11K's To Freedom") were added. Among the African musicians featured are guitarists Jimmy Dludlu, Sipho Gumede, Tony Cox, and Errol Dyers; pianists Paul Hanmer and Jacob Jansen; multi-instrumentalist Pops Mohamed, saxophonist McCoy Mrubata, and bassist Gito Baloi. The stunning recording shows the depth and diversity of talent in Africa.
Jeff Majors demonstrates his spirituality, artistry and multiple talents on Sacred 2000, a set of 12 tunes that inspire and uplift. With the majestic opening song, "Sweet Hour of Prayer," with moving vocals by Al Johnson, Majors sets the tone for the glorious selections that follow. Johnson also sings on the jazzy "Purpose" (Ecclesiastes 3), the spirited affirmation "No, Not One," and the finale, "Lift Every Voice and Sing," which features a 35-piece orchestra. Albertina Walker adds traditional flavor to "Just Another Day" (which also features Genobia Jeter), while Renee Diggs provides beautiful vocals on "She Cries" (Proverbs 8), backed by the New Jersey Mass Choir. Throughout the recording, Majors' mastery of the classical harp and delicate orchestrations are superb. In addition, he wrote several original tunes, produced the CD and sang background vocals. The result is music from the soul and for the soul.
ALSO NOTED: D'Angelo, Voodoo (Virgin); F.A.T.E., For All That's Endured (WB); Beenie Man, Art and Life (Virgin); The Madd Rapper, Tell `Em Why U Madd (Columbia); LaVaska, Smoke In The Wind (Ya Man); Sammie, From The Bottom To the Top (Capitol); LOX, We Are the Streets (Interscope); Common, Like Water for Chocolate (MCA); Commissioned, Time & Seasons (Verity); Marvin Sapp, Nothing Else Matters (Myrrh); M2K Gospel 2000 (Gospo Centric); Great Men of Gospel (EMI Gospel); Women of Faith (Integrity); Frank McComb, Love Stories (Columbia); Mark Turner, Ballad Session (WB).