On what is bound to become an overlooked masterpiece, trombonist Wycliffe Gordon bravely mines the rich terrain where jazz and gospel intersect. Following in the footsteps of Charles Mingus’ Blues and Roots and mentor Wynton Marsalis’ In This House, On This Morning, he opens his arms to effortlessly integrate spirituals, hymns and four elegant originals under the broad umbrella of jazz.
Raised in the Georgia Baptist church and weaned on the famed Florida A&M University marching band, Gordon joined the Marsalis crew in 1989 and has since become the trumpeter’s most indispensable sideman. Perhaps it was Marsalis who taught him that mixing the sacred and the profane–jazz was born in the brothels of New Orleans–isn’t as much of a stretch as it would seem. After all, gospel and jazz are both music of the people.
Trumpeter Marcus Printup and pianist Eric Reed, two Marsalis alums raised in the church, lead off “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” The forceful clarinet of yet another Wynton protégé, New Orleans native Victor Goines, leads the charge on “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” The soulful Carrie Smith, whose husky voice calls to mind Cassandra Wilson, throws in a Satchmo imitation on “There’s a Tree,” the album’s rousing centerpiece.
Gordon breaks out the tuba on “The Lord’s Prayer,” but the album’s signature is the sound of his trombone alternately weeping, laughing and shouting its way through the service. If this music doesn’t get the spirit in you, you need to check your pulse.