Beyond Words

Jay Leach

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Beyond Words Review

by Jonathan Widran

A worship service may seem like an unlikely place to hear smooth jazz, but when guitarist Jay Leach stood at the altar at Bel Air Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles one Sunday morning, playing plucky acoustic melodies to a DAT track, all the faithful couldn't help but say "Amen!" Leach gathers a handful of the genre's finest Christian musicians Justo Almario, Abe Laboriel, Alex Acuña, and Kirk Whalum -- for an eclectic praise and jam session on Beyond Words, providing Scripture to meditate on as one listens to a blend of electric funk and string section enhanced acoustic solos. While his quiet eloquence on hymns like "Amazing Grace" and "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" make for great background music for quiet time (in prayer or peaceful meditation), secular genre fans are more likely to dig into the bursts of energy in the swaying funk of "Holy Holy Holy (Hosanna)" where Leach's acoustic duets with a synth horn section before he does a call and response on the electric with Whalum's aggressive sax -- and the all electric "Walkin' the Walk," where again Leach and Whalum see who can praise the most passionately. Leach also delves into a laid-back Latin vibe on the gently percussive "Festejo," a bright little opportunity to duet with Almario's fluttering leaf flute style. This is more fun than most church services you've ever been to.

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