GREAT GOSPEL JAZZ PIONEERS: Part 6: “From the Depths of an Anointed Vessel”
By Terrence Richburg © 2010
Yolanda Adams is one of the most (if not the most) celebrated and successful Gospel female artist of the 21st century. Her unparalleled vocal sound is naturally intense yet endearing, powerful yet consoling and captivates audiences and artists alike with a stylistic diversity and rare approach which sets her apart from all others in modern times. Yolanda's unique rapid-fire staccato ad lib vocal style, free-style unscripted scats and signature improvisational melodic phrasing incorporates Neo-Soul, Jazz, Hip-Hop and contemporary Gospel fusion at its best. The essence of Yolanda's sound emanates from a willingness to be used as a vessel by God even from the depths of her spiritual anointing.
Adams began a career as a schoolteacher and part-time model in Houston, but eventually moved from teaching to a full-time performance career as a lead singer. Adams immediately attracted the attention of Thomas Whitfield and Sound of Gospel Records and was soon signed to a record deal birthing her first album, Just As I Am in 1987. But in 1990, she signed to Ben Tankard's independent record label Tribute Records and released the renowned CD, Through The Storm , which featured the hot Gospel Jazz track, "The Only Way." Under Tankard's careful direction Yolanda's rare timbre began to attract the loyal support of listeners and audiences everywhere. Her soulful, jazz-based flavor became an instant draw--a sound easily recognized and embraced among fans from all walks of life.
Two years later with Tankard's label, Adams followed with the release of Save the World , which included her first signature song "The Battle Is The Lord's." Her next release in 1995, More Than A Melody, began to further expand and expose Adams' vocal creativity and ministry into the popular mainstream with collaborative production work from Ben Tankard, O'Landa Draper, and Bebe Winans. The single "Gotta Have Love," from that release, featuring the complementary vocal talent of Tony Terry on background vocals, gained monumental notoriety and was her first single and music video production.
Yolanda has gone on to soaring heights with many more project releases, major music industry awards, impressive artist accomplishments and personal successes within and outside the urban contemporary gospel arena. These include such major works as the 1998 release of Songs from the Heart, and Mountain High...Valley Low in 1999 on Elektra Records, a project which involved several notable artist and production contributions from such icons as Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, (Janet Jackson, Boyz II Men), James "Big Jim" Wright (Mariah Carey, Nicole C. Mullen), Warryn Campbell (Mary Mary, Brandy), and Keith Thomas (BeBe & CeCe Winans). The album achieved Platinum status in 2000 and yielded Adams a Grammy Award. Significant singles from the CD album include "Yeah," "Fragile Heart," and "Open My Heart."
Other remarkable successes included Adams' 2000 Christmas CD release, a 2001 live album release, The Experience , winning Adams a second Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album, and Believe, another 2001 release which included the hit "Never Give Up." Believe was certified Gold in 2002. She has followed with additional releases in 2005, Day by Day , another 2005 release, Just As I Am/New Born Soul, a 2006 release, The Essential Yolanda Adams, and three 2007 releases, (a Columbia greatest hits collection) The Best of Me, Yolanda Adams, Greatest Hits and a 2nd career holiday release, What a Wonderful Time.
Adams has continued her awe-inspiring performance schedule with such notable appearances as BET's "The Mo'Nique Show," where she sang one of Monique's favorites, "Alright, Already" from the album, Mountain High...Valley Low. Yolanda's debut book, Points of Power, was released this year. Adams is currently the host of The Yolanda Adams Morning Show, which currently airs on Urban Gospel stations owned by Radio One. Adams' matchless success is a sincere testimony of what can happen when an anointed human vessel remains faithful to their true calling, devoted to their gift, and committed to the glory of God.