Ok, a bit of background is needed to give you an idea of how important this album was to me: imagine me as a 15-year old new Christian boy, a big jazz and hip-hop fan, who has the impression that all Christian music is middle-of-the-road light rock, hymns or cheesy gospel (n.b. I’ve come to hugely appreciate all three of these since!). Enter Kirk Whalum’s album: a funky, soulful and superbly performed jazz CD. Needless to say, it was a huge blessing to me in realising that Christian music was so much wider than I’d realised (I discovered Christian hip-hop soon afterwards). Kirk is a very accomplished saxophonist in his own right, working with people like Whitney Houston, Quincy Jones and Luther Vandross, but on this album his focus is God as he creates a combination of joyful celebration and meditative worship.
Particular highlights for me are the scat improvisation on “Wade in the Water”, the exquisite solos on “Lord, I want to be a Christian” and the joyful proclamation of “I’ll go with Him!” on “Where He leads me”. Those of you who really know your jazz will be pleased to hear that both George Duke (piano) and Paul Jackson Jnr. (guitar) are part of Kirk’s core band. For those of you who don’t know your jazz so well – it doesn’t matter! You will find this is a beautiful collection of music that will inspire you, uplift you and give you a lot of pleasure! You may, like me, even find that it leads you to worship God without the need for any words at all.
Below is a song from Chapter 2 of The Gospel According to Jazz – another great album, although I prefer the first (youtube doesn’t seem to have any from the first!). My advice would be to get both albums, and pre-order chapter 3 which is on its way!