Without ever taking a lesson or learning to read a note, composer and keyboardist Ben Tankard has, over the course of 20 years and 14 best-selling recordings, used his God-given musical talent to share the hope of the Gospel that changed his life. Widely renowned by his hundreds of thousands of fans as "the Godfather of Gospel Jazz" and "the Quincy Jones of Jazz" for his three-time Grammy-nominated work as a producer, Tankard -- who along with his wife Jewel pastors the Destiny Center, a congregation of over 600 in Murfreesboro, TN -- has earned 15 gold and six platinum albums, nine Stellar Awards, six Dove nominations, and three Gospel Music Hall of Fame Awards. On his previous release, Let's Get Quiet: The Smooth Jazz Experience, the multi-talented musician tapped into the gentler side of gospel, getting in touch with what millions of the faithful call the "still small voice" of God. While the majority of Tankard's previous recordings are all-star affairs featuring genre greats like Take 6, Yolanda Adams, and Shirley Murdock, Let's Get Quiet was conceived as a completely solo contemporary jazz project. Mercy, Mercy, Mercy carries on in this vein, a dreamy, laid-back mix of likable (mostly) instrumentals whose titles ("Heavenly Vibes," "How Great Is Our God," "Hold on, Keep Strong") are designed to invoke in the listener the same subtle yet soaring passions that inspired Tankard. Keeping along the mellow theme is the meditative vocal "My Lips Shall Utter Praises," sung by Shelly. Urban jazz-oriented projects often include familiar covers to keep the ears glued to the rest, but Tankard's inclusion of Joe Zawinul's always welcome "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" (recorded live at the Tankard Palace), Sade's "No Ordinary Love," and the Emotions' funky "Best of My Love" is along those heavenly thematic lines -- i.e., it could be human love or God's love. None of these arrangements are overly fascinating or original, but Tankard goes a long way toward establishing himself in a unique hybrid gospel-urban jazz genre, and definitely has the vision and the chops to develop this vibe in the future.
Mercy, Mercy, Mercy Review
by Jonathan Widran