How Good It Is

Jimetta Rose

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How Good It Is Review

by Andy Kellman

Only six months after the release of her first album in six years, Jimetta Rose returned with How Good It Is, an undertaking quite different from the one it follows. Whereas The Gift: Around the Way Queen was the grimy hip-hop soul result of Rose writing and singing over tracks handpicked from the Street Corner Music label's beat tape series The Gift, How Good It Is took shape in more organic if atypical fashion. In a period of adversity, Rose wrote songs specifically to cope and improve her state of mind, and then formed a choir, dubbed the Voices of Creation, with participants chosen less on talent than on their desire to heal themselves and others. It was through social media that Rose sought the vocalists, so it's not coincidental that some of them -- such as Novena Carmel, Gaby Hernandez, and Andrée Belle -- have a deep musical background. Rose draws from her experience as a youth choir director to lead the group with help from musical director and organist Jack Maeby, pianist Qur'an Shaheed, and percussionist Allakoi Peete. Joining them behind the scenes are Mario and Samantha Caldato, who co-produce to transportive, enveloping effect. How Good It Is mixes gospel, spiritual jazz, and funk in a way that uplifts and impels. First is an update of the deep jazz-dance truffle "Let the Sun Shine In," originally recorded by late-'70s Bay Area group Sons and Daughters of Lite. It gently modifies the construction of the source to foreground the vocals -- if in a way that also takes it closer to the vast expanses of War's travelogue "City, Country, City." (Call it "Church, Garden, Church.") Rahsaan Roland Kirk's "Spirits Up Above" gets a righteous and hypnotizing reading with leads exchanged throughout. Rose then assumes the role of master teacher in "Operation Feed Yourself," a Sons and Daughters of Lite song with some likeness to early-'70s Norman Whitfield, encouraging self-reliance with hopeful zeal. The harmonies in "How Good It Is," containing a call to "Breathe in how good it is," appropriately enough sound like they're wafting through a soft ray of light. After Funkadelic's "Cosmic Slop" is reshaped into a song of determination with a moving lead from low-to-high tenor Kellye Hawkins, the group takes stock with "Ain't Life Grand," a finale with none of the sarcasm or negative sentiment the title might imply. From top to bottom, the group vocals are mixed such that Rose's voice can always be recognized, providing additional continuity subtle enough to not detract from the communal energy. Faint birdsong and informal interplay among the singers add to the sense that the session is all the way live.

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