MERLON DEVINE - "Set the Atmosphere: Volume I"
By Andrea R. Williams and Terrence Richburg © 2009

In some musical genres artists seek to tug at the listener's heart with introspective words and melodic motifs to convey a very specific mood or intended message. However, Gospel Jazz if done right it will impact the listener's spirit deeply with a multitude of emotions all at the same time--not in terms of perplexity, but rather with a sense of overwhelming delight and inexplicable sensation. Even more difficult is to consistently achieve this same effect moving through a series of songs compiled in a single CD album. Yet, the JGC Local Spotlight Feature shines on Merlon Devine, and his latest project production, Set the Atmosphere: Volume I , which has accomplished just that.

With a last name like "Devine" you certainly would expect something very special, but you may tend to be a little skeptical at first. But this would only last seconds after you hear the first track and start to flow with the electrifying energy that renders you continuously mesmerized by Merlon's incredibly rich tone on saxophone and his ability to tell an enchanting story in detail without words. Merlon Devine indeed understands the "Grover-like" art of building a song as he blazes with dynamic mastery of melodic inflection and soulful solos that lead you into an atmosphere of inspiring slopes and profoundly gratifying adventure.

Merlon Devine believes his calling is to offer "pure, anointed music on the saxophone that ushers in the presence of God, sets the atmosphere for a move of God, and assists in leading the unsaved into the Kingdom of God." This being Merlon's fourth CD effort towards fulfilling this assignment, Set The Atmosphere: Volume I has certainly by all accounts given those who experience it an opportunity to dwell in a divine atmosphere of blessings and celebration with the Almighty. We're certainly looking forward to hearing what Volume II will bring, as Merlon will undoubtedly transport us higher to another altitude in the "Devine" atmosphere of God's presence.

Merlon Devine opens up Set The Atmosphere: Volume I with a bright, festive arrangement of " Come, Now Is The Time To Worship. " Listeners would normally be familiar with a more somber and reflective version of this popular worship tune, but Devine responsibly takes liberties to create a new fun flair setting with a very nice distinctive drum groove making this a hand-clapper and a definite winner.

While spreading his wings as a saxophonist on this project, Merlon showcases his vibrant songwriter skills as he shines on the self-penned cut, " New Mercies ." Flying high with conviction into the Smooth Jazz realm, this track keeps your head bobbing strong while engaging your mind in a sweet taste-fest of soft red velvet.

" Victorious, " another fine Merlon Devine creation, captures the ear with his beautiful soprano sax tone and a bit of funk thrown in for good measure.

Devine excels as an artist on the initially laid-back, but punchy Jazz groove of " Favor. " Trading in the soprano for the extremely versatile tenor sax for the moment, this track spells relaxation and allows the listener to commune with God over smooth-textured melodic elements. But by the end it moves you into a heart-throbbing, power-praise vamp as only Merlon's tenor can deliver. This tune offers some of Devine's most impressive improvisational chemistry and fiery solos, none of which you want to miss.

" The Well, " an amazingly beautiful track by Devine, stands out as a "classic to be." It's captivating and worshipful melody precipitates lifted hands and a surrendered heart. A glistening piano foundation allows Merlon's sax to build this one into a wonderful and climactic place of praise.

Title cut, "Set The Atmosphere, " another original composition by the saxophonist, is a musically-attractive piece stretching out over 5 glorious minutes. Devine explodes on this one letting go, holding nothing back and improvising unabashedly, as he pulls out everything inside, that the horn can blow.

The Dan Dean and Gary Sadler's tune, " Pour Your Love On Me " is given a signature Tyrone Powell instrumental arrangement, with a tender texture and a passionate touch from Merlon--amazingly pretty in its simplicity.

" Take My Life, " the powerful and popular worship song made famous by Micah Stampley , is ministered to the glory of God by Merlon, as he renders one of his most spirited performances on the project. Another beautiful arrangement by Tyrone Powell helps to make this a stunningly-executed delivery.

Tommie Walker's " Draw Nigh " is covered on this release, as well. The addition of some tightly knit and well-executed background vocals on this cut helps launch it into a high level of Gospel vitality couched with an extra special Jazz blend.

" Yes, " a mega-hit for Shekinah Glory , features violinist-exquisite, Melanie Hill joining Merlon for a unique Classical-Jazz fusion improvisational rendition of the popular worship tune--another once in a lifetime treasure not to pass up.

Devine continues to move up even further with " Arise, " a spunky, high-energy praise song, featuring the thumpin', poppin' bass lines of Nate Fields and the distinguished drum delights of power-player, Jay Williams .

Merlon closes out Set The Atmosphere: Volume I with the colorful urban groove, " Breakthrough, " which musically imparts an expressive array of Devine-flight excitement, while bringing the project to a clear landing of deep resolve and God-based revelation.


JAY WILLIAMS - "A Hero's Legacy-A Gift of Music That Keeps On Giving"
Interview by Terrence Richburg and Andrea R. Williams © 2009

I've learned and confirmed that no matter what you know about someone, whether they're famous or just someone working up the ranks or diligently behind the scenes, it's virtually impossible to predict the potential value or impact a life will have on another or even the world. Someone can be a "hero" or just someone striving to be the best that they can be and pass it on. I'm fortunate to have known a few heroes during my life, but when those heroes are connected in a way that produces musical genius and creativity on an unfathomable level, I count myself truly blessed. Such is the story of Jay Williams, drummer, producer, and musician extraordinaire.

Jay Williams is no stranger to the Gospel, Jazz & R&B community. He has been working at his craft for a little over three decades and is considered by those who know him not only to be astoundingly gifted, but also a man of integrity and a model of spiritual maturity. In this issue, our JGC Local Spotlight shines on Jay Williams, whom you soon will discover pays a great tribute to his patriarchal foundation-one whose hero's legacy is also a gift of musical blessing that keeps on giving to those who witness Jay's playing and encounter his Christ-like spirit.

Jay's musical passion, hard work, experience and dedication have significantly rewarded him professionally to appear at world-acclaimed venues and international live and recorded TV events. Williams has performed and recorded with a host of main stream artists all around the world-which are really too many to mention. However, a few include such greats as: Yolanda Adams, Karen Clark-Sheard, Richard Smallwood, Myrna Summers, Ben Tankard, Jonathan Butler, Kirk Whalum, Bobby Lyle, Gerald Albright, Najee, Kim Waters, Dave Koz, Will Downing, Lee Ritenour, Norman Brown, Nancy Wilson, Jagged Edge, Shai, Stephanie Mills, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Ledisi, Kim Burrell and the list goes on. Recently, Jay received national recognition as Co-Producer for the 2009 three-time Stellar-Award nominated CD "The John Tillery Project."

JGC was fortunate to chase down Jay from his busy schedule for an exclusive interview. For those who know Jay Williams, JGC would like for you to get to know him even better. For those who don't know Jay Williams, we want to introduce him to you on a personal note so that you'll become familiar with his life which is already impacting yours musically and spiritually unaware.

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JGC: I wanted to interview you because I know you're doing a lot. I wanted to know how it was for you growing up and what was it that made you gravitate towards music, especially drums.

Jay Williams: My dad [Judge Williams, Sr.] was an organist in the D.C. area. I would go with him when he would play and watch the other drummers playing with him. There were drummers like Danny McCrimmon and Junior Salsa. I used to just sit, watch and learn. It caught my interest. I just loved music, from the start. Eventually, I gigged other places that needed a drummer. And of course, he said, "My son plays drums." So that's how it all started.

JGC: What specifically has served as training for you during your developmental stage in music?

JW: Sunday morning...in a storefront church...where they shouted for hours...[laughs]. I had to play on the worst equipment. The drums were different colors and the cymbals were cracked..[laughs]...on an old Ghost pedal. That was my best training. I also got my training listening to the music that my dad would play in the car. He was a big fan of Stevie Wonder and Earth, Wind & Fire, even the Jazz musicians. He had old Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea records that I got into at a young age. It developed the musical sense that I have now. My dad introduced me to a video of Buddy Rich; after that, to me, he was king. That's how I started. It wasn't a formal training thing, just basically watching and listening.

JGC: What role has Christianity and the church played in developing opportunities to use your gift?

JW: It's played a big part. I tell young people that I can't do it without the Lord because He gave me the gift, first of all. So I have to do what I can to give it back to Him and to show others where I got it from. You have a lot of musicians who take credit for themselves - this is me, this is what I did. But for me, it's totally God. Many times when I'm playing, I know it's not me playing. It's what God gave me at that moment. It's kinda weird, maybe I shouldn't say weird, but it's kinda wild sometimes. There have been times when I have done something on the drums, and they ask me, "Can you do that again?" I'm like, "I don't know what I did!" I'm not trying to be funny or vain, but that's not me. I give it all back to Him, and I give Him all the credit for what I do. I believe where God has placed me and the opportunities He's given me are truly a blessing. I don't say, "Why didn't that person call me for the gig?" Our steps are ordered. It's important for musicians or people who are reaching for something to realize that.

JGC: Who are your major influences when it comes to your drumming style? I know you mentioned Buddy Rich, but who are others?

JW: I'm into a lot of different drummers, but my top three favorite drummers are Vinnie Colaiuta, Dennis Chambers and Will Kennedy. All three bring something different to the table. They have their own style, their own voicing in the way they do things. Will is very musical in his playing. Even when he's playing drums by himself, he gives you a real feel of the song. Vinnie is a "groove drummer." He's the type of drummer who can lay a groove and keep you there. Then he'll do something real slick; it doesn't have to be an amazing chop, but it's a chop that speaks for a long time. Dennis, he's just...fire. Once he's gone, it's over. He brings a lot. I like Vinnie's groove. One thing about Vinnie that sticks out to me is his rim shot. His shot is amazing. I could be in the car listening to the radio and not know who the artist is or who the drummer is, but when I hear that rim shot, I'm sure it's Vinnie. He has his own sound when it comes to that.

JGC: Who are your heroes as it relates to music?

JW: My dad definitely was a huge hero of mine. As you know, he passed a couple of years ago. He was a big influence in my musical career. He supported me in everything I did. I owe a lot to him for placing me in certain situations where I am today and where I'm going. I really thank him for that. There are others, but he's my main musical hero. He's my main hero, period. He was a true dad. And that was much more important. It helped me to strive to be a good dad.

JGC: Do you aspire to play other instruments?

JW: Actually, it's funny you ask me that. At a young age, I started messing around with the bass and the keyboards. Then once I got into my teen years, I saw that I wanted to really enhance my drumming even more so I paid attention to that. But looking back, I wished I had given everything an equal amount of time so I could be more like Terrence Richburg...[laughs]. But I definitely want to get back into the other instruments, mainly for writing purposes, especially as I get older. I don't want to be on the road at 70.

JGC: Who gave you your first start as a musician professionally and how did that come about ?

JW: My first start professionally was with a local choir called Toby Palmer & Chosen Generation. That was basically my first professional start. I think I was about 16 when I started playing with them. Then when I got older, I started playing with Jazz musicians and it just grew from there. But it started with me playing out a lot, traveling with the choir. My first live recording was when I was 15 with D.C. Fellowship Mass Choir under the leadership of Pastor D. Lee Owens. As far as traveling though, it was Toby Palmer & Chosen Generation.

JGC: You've played with many artists in various styles and it appears that the major part of what you do is in the Jazz field. What is it about Jazz that really attracts you?

JW: I think Jazz and Gospel are a happy medium of all musical styles. In Jazz, you can have Jazz tunes that have a Gospel feel or a Rock feel or an Afro Cuban feel or a Classical feel. Jazz is really a musical style, almost like a bowl of gumbo. You get all of that in Jazz. I think that's why I do Jazz a lot.

JGC: What would you say the major difference is between Jazz as opposed to a Rock gig or an R&B gig?

JW: One major difference in playing R&B - you have to play parts on everything you do - but playing R&B is more of a structured situation. Many times in R&B, you're playing with tracks so there are certain boundaries you have to stay in. The song ends at a certain time, every time. Within Jazz, it's more of a spontaneous thing that happens. You can still have arrangements, but you can play in and out of those arrangements. In R&B, you have to support the singer and not overshadow them.

JGC: What is your impression of Gospel Jazz as a genre and what does it mean to you?

JW: It means a lot to me because I and other musicians love Jazz music and they also love the Lord. It's music that He gave us. I can make it what I like while worshiping Him at the same time. A lot of people have different views, but simply put, it's instrumental music that has a feeling. It depends on how you interpret it. Even if I do a Chick Corea tune (and his goal may not have been to praise the Lord), I could play "Spain" and send it to God. It's about what I'm feeling and what's coming from my heart.

JGC: How do you feel about Gospel Jazz being utilized in the church and how could it be used more effectively?

JW: Well, Gospel Jazz being used in the church is a great thing. But to be honest, church folks are not just listening to Gospel music anyway. When 105.9 changed (a former Smooth Jazz station in Washington, D.C.), a lot of church people were mad. It's like a happy medium between the two. I have seen pastors at Jazz concerts because they love music. When Jazz lovers who are in church hear a Gospel tune like "O Happy Day" interpreted in a Jazz way, I think it makes them feel comfortable. Ramsey Lewis did a Jazz version of that song and it was wonderful. Jazz music in the church is a good thing. You have traditional people in the church who say, "That's taking it too far." But we're in a new day.

JGC: What would you say is the most defining moment for you professionally as a musician and an artist?

JW: Wow...I would say when I got the call to play with Lee Ritenour. Will Kennedy gigs with him regularly, but there were two particular gigs that he couldn't do. The first gig was in Hong Kong in November and I got the call in July. When I got that opportunity, it was a kind of a nervous feeling and kind of a happy feeling. The nervousness left once I got to rehearsal at Lee's house. I got to know him and the gig turned out wonderfully. I got a call from him again that next year in January. He said to me that if Will can't do certain things, he says that he'll call me. It felt good.

JGC: During your extensive travels, what did you learn from those experiences and what has impacted you most?

JW: I've been able to check out other musicians and check out their attitude. I have been able to network with others, even those who aren't musicians but are in the music business including stage managers, sound and light people and promoters. I think it's important to communicate with people in the business who don't do what we do. Eventually, you will see them again. There are times when I'll be all over the country, but there will be people who will recognize me from other things I've done - even though I don't know them from a can of paint. That's a good experience, too.

JGC: I know you have a project you're working on and what can we expect from you in the future?

JW: My wife suggested I finish 5 or 6 tunes to get a feel for how it will work out. I have been in this business for a while, but as far as a "front man" and an artist, I'm a rookie. I don't want to jump in there with two feet, so I want to learn and grow into it. Hopefully, by the end of September, I should have something pressed so I can get a feel for how people receive it.

JGC: I know that when you're given an opportunity to solo, the audience really gets excited about what you do. How do you approach drumming as a soloist?

JW: In my solo approach, I try to make it musical to the point where the average ear knows what's going on so it doesn't sound like a whole bunch of racket. You have to start somewhere and build and that's how I approach it. I am known for being a "pocket" drummer - which I love. I love playing pocket; I love groovin'. But when it's time to do the solo thing, I'm a totally different person. A young bass player Nate Fields always jokes with me saying "Oh, he's young again!" I'm the kind of person that if I don't feel it, I won't do it. If I'm not comfortable physically - or not warmed up like I should be - I don't want to try to attack it if it's not coming freely. I would rather do my job as a timekeeper but still in a musical sense. There have been times when I have been given a solo and I will do a groove, but it will be a different groove than the original groove. A lot of times when James Brown said "Give the drummer some," the drummer kept a groove, but he did something distinctive.

JGC: What would you want to share with drummers who are up-and-coming and want to develop professionally?

JW: First and foremost, have fun. Parents of 5 or 6 year-old kids come to me and they want to give them drum lessons. I think I'm the opposite of other people; I told them to just let them play and let them enjoy doing it. You don't want to put them in a classroom setting where they start from the basics - not yet. Right now, they just want to bang and do their thing. Let them enjoy it; don't waste your money until you see they have a serious interest. I don't want to waste their money or my time. It's important for youngsters to read music, but let them develop their sense of music. Make sure they enjoy it.

JGC: I noticed you have some companies that you endorse. I have talked to artists who want to get an endorsement deal. How important is it and how would you approach doing it?

JW: First and foremost, it's always good to be working on a regular basis because companies don't want to give endorsements just because you play drums. If you're playing at your home church or in jazz clubs around the city, it's good. But they want their product to be seen across the country. They aren't in a rush to sign people who just want free gear. It took about a year and a half for me to get an endorsement deal with Yamaha Drums. They wanted to see my passion in playing their instrument first. I had to keep in touch with them to let them know what I was doing. And it wasn't just about asking them about an endorsement deal when I called. I told this one young drummer that I'm mentoring - who wants endorsements and gigs - that it's all in due time. You have to be patient. There's one endorsement deal that I'm trying to get now, but I'm being patient. I have a relationship with them, but I'm trying to develop a better relationship with them to the point where they can trust me and give me what I need. Also, even in having an endorsement, don't just get a whole bunch of gear because you can get it. There are a lot of musicians out there that have endorsements that get a lot of drum sets or cymbals and they end up selling them because they don't have any money because they aren't gigging. They know that game as well.

JGC: Finally, I know you're on the road a lot and you've performed with a lot of people. Who would you say is your favorite artist to perform with? And do you have opportunities to share Christ with people?

JW: In a lot of situations I have been in, the artists have been saved as well. That helps a lot. I have worked with Jonathan Butler. He and I might do a jazz festival one day and a church the next day. He's one of my favorite artists to work with. I'll be doing some dates with Gerald Albright and Kirk Whalum and we'll be doing gospel songs within the sets. They do a gospel medley so we're definitely keeping it spiritually focused. Even off stage, our conversation is about the Lord, about church and about life period.


ANTHONY "TONY" WALKER - "A Ministry of Jazz, A Gift Always in Season"
By Terrence Richburg © 2009

Whether you're looking for an anointed musician fully equipped to minister at a powerful Sunday worship service or concert, or a world-class pianist to grace the world's stages of Carnegie Hall, Broadway, Europe, across the sea in Japan or even at an intimate local Jazz venue, for the incredibly versatile and exciting musical talent of Anthony Walker , it's all part of the same God-given blessing. Anthony Walker is "the real deal" when it comes to his ability to comfortably fit and excel in any situation on piano or keyboards and shine above all expectation. Walker amazes fans with technical precision and inspires emotions with his soulful, empathetic style. Anthony easily senses the character of his audiences and flows effortlessly from gospel to ragtime to rhythm and blues to classical, prompting a cascade of spontaneous "oohs" and "aahs" in response. Experience a spirit-filled journey you'll want to take with him over and over again "to a place you won't soon want to leave." In a nutshell, Anthony Walker's playing delivers "a ministry of Jazz" and "a gift always in season".

Walker's influences tell the story of his tremendous musical sound and expertise--having been inspired and mentored by the genius of such greats as Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bobby Lyle, George Duke, Joe Sample, Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Richard Smallwood, Thomas Whitfield, Steven Ford, Ramsey Lewis, Earth, Wind and Fire, Chopin, Lizst, Rachmaninoff, Debussy, Ravel and Bach.

Anthony began his formal piano training at the tender age of five in his native St. Paul, Minnesota, making his public debut just five years later. When asked about the training he had in developing his style, Walker states that he benefited from a high-school jazz program of which he explains "ran two hours a day, which is unheard of for a public school. Then I took some [private] jazz lessons, but for the most part the jazz training has been really on my own and as a result of working with singers and instrumentalists and you get what you get. Of course with gospel you get all that training in church and then I went to school for classical."

Following high school, Walker studied classically at Alabama State University. While there, Anthony entered a competition, confidently challenging several recognized favorites. When the smoke cleared the judges had heard what Anthony's heart said through his fingers and he ended up winning in two separate categories.

Upon leaving Alabama, Anthony moved up north to pursue his master's degree in piano performance at Temple University in Philadelphia. Upon wetting Walker's appetite for travel to three different American regions, his dedication rewarded him with performances all across the nation and even around the world in front of audiences on five continents.

Anthony has shared the stage with a diverse company of superstars including Stevie Wonder, Patti Austin, Kirk Whalum, Gerald Albright, Jeff Lorber, The Yellowjackets, Take Six, Donnie McClurkin, BeBe & CeCe Winans and many others. Anthony also spent five months on Broadway and 18 months touring with The Winans in a hit Gospel musical. But no performance was more memorable than Walker's 2000-2001 invitation to participate in the Smithsonian Institution's 18-month long exhibit of historic pianos. As part of this incredible showcase, Anthony played pianos that had been favored instruments of artists as diverse as Liberace and Liszt, plus Duke Ellington, Beethoven and Mozart.

The favor of God has continued to immensely bless Anthony Walker as a highly sought after pianist, keyboardist, producer, arranger, musical director and recording artist, both locally and on the international music stage. Anthony has an impressive discography including projects with TD Jakes with The Potter's House, Vickie Winans, Nancy Wilson, Isaac Hayes, Skip Pruitt, and Steve Key, but he's probably most familiar to many Gospel Music fans as accompanying pianist for the anointed performances and recording ministry of gospel legend, Richard Smallwood (and Vision).

Walker is currently, the MD for the sensational singing phenomenon, Ledisi . In a recent interview, Anthony was asked about his opportunity to work with Ledisi. He explained that he connected with her through a mutual friend who raved about him and passed on a copy of Anthony's CD to her. This was around the time of Ledisi's resurging career with her smash hit CD release, Lost and Found . During a performance at The Birchmere, which Walker attended, Ledisi called him up on stage to do a song with her. They immediately connected "like old friends" even though Anthony had never played with her. About three weeks later Ledisi called asking him to be her Musical Director (MD) as she was about to start promoting her project. Walker further described, that "the experience has been very rewarding," "she does such monster vocals, and she is every bit as talented as they say she is." Anthony elaborates that "with a strong unit of musicians and singers we're like family." "It's a really, really cool situation." It will be two years that Walker has been with Ledisi in June of this year. When asked if he found any kind of conflicts as a Christian performing in what most people would consider a non-Christian environment, Walker affirms "I don't have any conflict for this reason; I am a very strong proponent of taking the Christian experience outside the four walls of the church. I also realized that one of the reasons why I was asked to work with her [Ledisi] was really because of the spirit of God inside of me. You can pass on the natural talent and I'm there because of God really orchestrating it. If I had a conflict it would have very much to do with, (a) if the content of the lyrics was so blatantly anti-God and (b) if the surroundings were just so utterly ridiculous. So, I don't have that in any one of these situations, because Ledisi is a very spiritual person, she's a Christian and names Christ. Coming to one of her live shows you see how she really is about encouraging and inspiring the audience so that they feel better once leaving there. Then we have a great group where no one uses drugs, no one drinks, no one smokes and everybody in there is connected with the church in some kind of way. So I don't have any conflicts."

Anthony also serves as the chief musician at his local church, Hope Christian Church, while commanding the stage as a Jazz pianist and recording artist in his own right. Walker's current CD release is entitled Love Calling , with previous stylistic diverse projects including, Come Inside , Times of Life , Piano Hymns and Melodies , and Christmas Time . When asked about the different flavors and styles of music he uses on his projects, Anthony explains, "I guess [it's] because of these various interests I have, because I love Jazz, but I also love Gospel and I also love Classical. He characterizes some of the music he does as a "gumbo mix" of classical, gospel and even ragtime vibes. Anthony concludes that "my recordings are a reflection of who I am and the experiences and training I've received over the years."

Anthony recently made his long-awaited debut appearance at the celebrated jazz venue, Blues Alley in Washington, DC as "Anthony Walker and Friends." We're also awaiting two more great CD projects from Walker, currently in production and due for release soon.

As Anthony Walker goes forth in his musical career, he sees himself as one put on this earth to perform and minister with the gifts God has blessed him. There is no question God has great things in store for him. Let's all support Anthony Walker in his efforts and continue to praise God for him and his awesome talent.


Todd Ledbetter - "MEDITATIONS: Hymns in the Key of Jazz"
Review by Terrence Richburg © 2008

This edition of The JGC Local Spotlight features the warm and impassionate sound of Washington DC area's own saxophone psalmist, TODD Ledbetter. On his debut Damaljah Productions CD release, Meditations, Todd engages listeners in a firm yet tender embrace of the treasured tradition of wisdom-packed hymnologies of the church. Ledbetter has been on a journey of life-changing momentum with his rare flair of Gospel Jazz ministry for over 20 years.

Along his distinct career path Todd has performed with some amazing artists, including Richard Smallwood, Walter Hawkins, and Grover Washington, Jr. Ledbetter's mesmerizing quality on soprano, alto and tenor sax stands out from the style of many of the R&B infused Gospel Jazz artists in today's current market. Todd preserves the time-tested flavor of the authentic modern Jazz legacy. The use of upright bass as a center piece, modest instrumentation, and down-to-earth yet stunning arrangements immediately succeed in the intended aim of the project. Stripped away is the sometimes rude and rugged clamor of the day as Todd's waves of embellished hymns move you to a place of complete serenity, heartfelt meditation and joyous peace.

Co-produced by Ledbetter and the incomparable John Stoddart, it's no accident that Meditation s truly delivers outstanding renditions and exceptional arrangements with such timeless favorites as, I Want Jesus to Walk with Me, Just as I Am, and Holy, Holy, Holy. From the onset, the opening track, Give Me a Clean Heart, sets the stage for both Todd himself and his listeners to move into a deliberate worship mode--a clean heart being where God can dwell.

The powerful church standard, It is Well, flows in a unique Afro-Cuban jazz style, while the soul-stirring arrangements of God Will Take Care of You, Oh How I Love Jesus, and Sweet, Sweet Spirit really take you straight to church on a paralleled "blues" bounce along the way. Not to miss an opportunity to showcase Ledbetter's own compositional skills the title cut, Meditations, consummates the fulfilling Jazz ministry experience with a strong display of dazzling solos and improvisational rewards for having come along on this ordained journey. Meditations: Hymns in the Key of Jazz is an extraordinary expedition led by Todd through the rich goldmines of church music ministry heritage--music so rich in spiritual significance you just can't afford to miss it.


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