Contemporary Gospel Record Featuring Legendary Saxophonist Todd Williams
Live Worship 2 with Gregory Thomas is a long-play set of quality "church music" balancing praise-and-worship classics with Times Square Church originals. Everything from the instrumental and vocal performances to the recording quality and CD packaging is top-notch. John Lennon declared that America is the modern Roman Empire and New York City is Rome itself. This being the case, it could be said Times Square Church is conveniently located at the heart of Western Civilization. Attended by over 8,000 worshipers hailing from over 100 different nationalities, they certainly make the most of their diverse ministry opportunities. The worship team is an equally diverse cross-section of that body.
This particular record is led by Gregory Thomas, one of Times Square Church’s dynamic music ministers. He also serves as the Director of Distribution and Marketing for TSC Music. Another player on this project is Todd Williams on saxophone. Dedicated jazz fans may remember him as the young lion selected by Wynton Marsalis for his famed septet, or for his significant contributions to Marcus Roberts or Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra projects. Nowhere else in the world will you find this caliber of musician in a praise band. When it comes to worship music, you've never heard riffing and jazz breaks like Todd Williams on sax, though it’s a little surreal to her him soloing on songs like Twila Paris’ standard "We Will Glorify." Check out the jams on "Let It Rise", "All the Way to Calvary" and "Jesus Is Alive."
But to be perfectly clear, the point of Live Worship 2 is just that: to lead listeners to celebrate their God in song. It is clearly not intended as a jazz record, so Williams is mostly sidelined a full praise band: electric guitar, piano, organ, vocals, drums and percussion. As such, the mix sometimes resembles the Dave Matthews band. That will cause some readers to cringe, thinking "who’d leave jazz to play church music, and pop-oriented at that?" Considering the remarkable jazz career he left, others say this gig is an act of humility. Still others would argue the prestige of a staff position at Times Square Church is the sacred equivalent to Marsalis or Lincoln Center. I have a feeling Williams would shrug-off the whole discussion; his heart is clearly in the right place as he worships with all his strength. Coltrane himself spoke of the simple joy of using his gifts to glorify God.
"Recorded live during weekly church services, you will hear spontaneous expressions of praise and adoration by people whose lives have genuinely be changed by God’s love. May the life and joy they know become yours also." -excerpt from liner notes
Live Worship 2 with Gregory Thomas is recommended for fans of contemporary Gospel, CCM, and praise-and-worship styles. Jazz fans interested in branching out or checking up on Todd Williams will not be let down.
-David Seymour is a jazz journalist in Todd William’s native Saint Louis, Missouri.