Barry Sames

Awaiting the Spirit

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Over the years, the vast majority of jazz recordings have been secular rather than spiritual. Nonetheless, spiritual music has been a source of inspiration for many jazzmen. Duke Ellington was influenced by African-American gospel, and the spiritual music of Muslims and Hindus was a major influence on modal heavyweights like John Coltrane, Yusef Lateef, Pharoah Sanders, and McCoy Tyner (himself a practicing Muslim). Gene Harris recorded a gospel-minded project (In His Hands on Concord), while Alice Coltrane's Journey in Satchidananda underscored her interest in Hinduism. In the 1990s, Philadelphia pianist/keyboardist Barry Sames (formerly of the Arpeggio Jazz Ensemble) became a major player in local jazz vespers services -- Christian church services that feature jazz. Awaiting the Spirit, which came out in 1998, employs many of the Philadelphia improvisers who have played alongside Sames in a local Lutheran church, including violinist John Blake, percussionist Leonard "Doc" Gibbs, and tenor man Fareed Mahluli. Much of the music is instrumental post-bop, although a few of the tracks feature vocalists. An actual gospel choir is employed on the traditional "Steal Away," while vocalist Sherri Wilson Butler is featured on John Coltrane's "Acknowledgment." Although Awaiting the Spirit has a spiritual outlook, it isn't a sectarian outlook -- Sames isn't promoting any particular denomination, and you don't have to be a practicing Christian to appreciate this rewarding CD.

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