"No Ways Tired"
By Terrence Richburg and Andrea R. Williams © 2009

Since exploding onto the music scene, debuting in 1995, Kim Burrell has quickly become one of the most revered vocal talents of our era. She has revolutionized Gospel singing with a very distinct and unique Jazz style that has incited many emulators of her sound and attracted thousands of fans to the contemporary Gospel Jazz genre. Kim has often been said to be "this generation's Ella Fitzgerald"--a royal title that's not easily achieved or bestowed. As incredible as Burrell's voice is, she openly speaks of herself as one from very humble motivation and with a true sense of thanksgiving to God--giving all praise and honor back to Him for her extraordinary gift and her significant impact on the world of music. Jazz Gospel Central had a rare opportunity to catch up with Kim just prior to her new release, No Ways Tired .

Kim seems to have always had a God-focused, jazzy style in her singing. "I think my singing is directed towards God," says Kim. "I do it as unto God. Honestly, I'm a church girl whose parents are ministers, and the way I sing was never an intentional thing," she explains. "The sound of it was never intended to be classified as anything except for praise unto God," she says. Burrell notes that she never intended to "sound jazzy or any of that." According to her, she was influenced by "the notes that I heard that God would give me."

It may have been nine years since Kim Burrell released her last solo project, but her impressive new CD has undoubtedly come at the perfect time. Gospel Jazz is progressing quickly toward a centerpiece focal point in the music industry arena. No Ways Tired was indeed well worth the wait and invites each listener to experience one of the most intimate settings with Kim--in a way that reveals the essence of who Kim Burrell is musically and spiritually on several levels. Burrell consistently offers an inherent practicum to her contemporaries on her unmatched vocal control, range, agility, versatility, and command of an assortment of multi-timbres and styles. But even more, Kim takes risks with No Ways Tired as a golden opportunity to explore and convey the spirit of her natural Jazz origins much more than any other of her previous releases.

Kim Burrell is thrilled with the end result of her new release. " I'm extremely overwhelmed about No Ways Tired . No Ways Tired is absolutely a piece of the heart of Kim," she shares. "Over the last nine years, there's been a piece of my heart in other albums I've done, but for the majority of it, it has also been the interpretation of those I've collaborated with," says the artist. She adds that she's loved sharing her talents with others, but there's nothing like her own interpretation. "I can say that No Ways Tired is so much a main part of my heart, a main center of my heart sound and message," says Kim. "I'm able to relate to people in a language based on the song titles and the song content because these are songs that people know, and it introduces them to a piece of me."

So as to not make you wait any longer, Kim's new release, No Ways Tired doesn't waste any time setting the stage for what is planned for listeners to hear and discover. Prelude features a brief but exciting mixture of verbal and musical interchanges between Kim and her producer, Chris "Big Dog" Davis on all instruments. A "warm-up" of sorts occurs with stylized spontaneity based on the instantly recognizable Bebop hook line to Stevie Wonder's smash Jazz/R&B hit, Sir Duke . Kim "prepares" for the project's journey by exercising her vocal instrument with "variations on theme"-like scats as only Kim can do--don't skip it or you'll miss a real treat.

Then the music erupts with one of my favorites and probably the most exciting arrangement on the project, Happy , co-written by Kim and producer, Chris Davis. A joy packed, head bobbing, Jazz fusion groove that will have you on your feet in less than a second. Burrell is her normal amazingly "smooth" self, showcasing incredible lead vocals with no effort at all, and just as mind-blowing five and six part harmony backgrounds with LaKeisha Lewis at her side. You'll want to put this one on the "repeat song" setting a lot while riding down the road or for whatever reason you want to use to listen again and again. By the way, Happy is a title understatement--while delivering an inspired stimulation to your heart, spirit-filled ministry to your soul, and all with the highest level of musicianship--special kudos go out to drummer, Joey Oscar .

Title cut, No Ways Tired , one of James Cleveland's most prized and celebrated inspirational signature anthems, presents tasteful innovation to this traditional favorite of the church. This song features the tight, groove-making teamwork of Jay Williams on drums, Mark Walker on bass, and Wayne Bruce on guitar--three of the most sought after and enduring Gospel and Jazz musicians from the DC area. Some Cleveland fans may take exception to Burrell's rendition, but after a moment of listening they would find themselves moving right along with everybody else to the powerful spirit and conviction of Kim's genuine interpretation.

There's no doubt that Kim's style is both transcendent and unique. In fact, she's been hard to categorize with more traditional Gospel music lovers. "People have listened to my music for many years, Gospel music lovers especially, and they had to 'adjust,' so to speak, so that they could consider what was coming out of me as Gospel," Kim explains. Some have questioned her asking, "Are you sure that's Gospel?" She understands that "Traditional Gospel ears" will listen to No Ways Tired with the original writer , James Cleveland 's version, in mind. "I cherish and absolutely admire James Cleveland," says Burrell, "and I respect him so to this day."

The project then transitions to an awesome musical tour-de-force--a stroll in the garden of some of the most important hymnology standards and favorites of the church featuring creative arrangements, and rich chord progressions as a backdrop for Kim's soulful, outpouring of vocal inspiration at her very best. Included are such greats as: I Surrender All (a lush Jazz ballad); What a Friend We Have in Jesus (a smooth R&B/Latin Jazz groove); My Faith Looks Up to Thee (a semi-bluesy Gospel Jazz ballad); and Just as I Am (a splendid contemporary Jazz Basso Nova).

Still thinking and singing "outside the box" embellished with Christian overtones Kim re-creates the elegant George and Ira Gershwin Jazz standard, Someone to Watch Over Me , recorded by many notable artists of our day, but originally popularized by such Jazz icons as Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and Sarah Vaughan. Kim infuses the ending with a testimonial vocal reference to the old traditional Gospel song, Angels [Watching Over Me] .

Kim Burrell's No Ways Tired is a commanding example of what the foundation of Gospel Jazz [or Jazz Gospel] is and how effective it can be as it relates to the church and ministry. "Jazz Gospel is a kind of music that simply just tells a story," says Burrell. "It is what Jazz is, mixed in with what the good news of Gospel is. It is unstoppable, relational and reaches so many different people. So, I think that's awesome; I like it," says Kim.

Her career has many facets and it's important for her to pass on her knowledge and experience to those coming behind her. It's with that intent in mind that Kim established her own outlet for "passing the torch." She says, "I've started a convention where I meet and gather with people from all over the world. This year I've taken it to several areas," says Burrell. "It's called 'The Ephesians Four Conference," and we've already visited Albany, Georgia, this year and are going to Charlotte in June." According to Kim, they'll also be traveling to Baltimore and Detroit. Her goal is to "make the great greater" and "the best better." It's her personal objective to "pull out of people who they really are."

Kim Burrell doesn't take it lightly that she has inspired others to sing. She explains, "I'm very flattered that people are influenced by me, but I am eternally blessed to be able to hear that original sound that God has created in others." Moreover, if Kim's latest release, No Ways Tired exemplifies the exponential impact of what God has implanted within her, we can all expect an even more dynamic influence at the height of God's inspiration through the Gospel Jazz ministry of Kim Burrell in the future.