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Meditations: Hymns In The Key Of Jazz

There are a number of excellent saxophonists who have worked in the area of gospel jazz, including Kirk Whalum, Angella Christie and Tom Braxton. Todd Ledbetter is another one of these musical pioneers. A student of Dr. Nathan Davis at the University of Pittsburgh, Ledbetter eventually worked with artists like saxophonists Grover Washington Jr., James Moody, Eddie Harris and trumpeter Jon Faddis. Later work in the bands of Joe Harris, Roger Humphries and Bishop Walter Hawkins led to Ledbetter becoming a leader in his own right.

Today Ledbetter serves as a Psalmist with the Metropolitan Baptist Church in Washington, DC and was the convener of the first Gospel Jazz Conference. Meditations: Hymns in the Key of Jazz is a rerelease. He was also the recipient of the 2011 Instrumental Artist of the Year Gospel Blue M.I.C Achievement Award.

In addition to his musical goal of dedicating and advancing the cause of Christ through gospel jazz, there is much to admire about Ledbetter's playing. His soprano playing owes an obvious debt to the work of Grover Washington Jr. Both play with a light sound, yet in a very deep grooving and soulful manner, and with excellent intonation on this highly temperamental instrument. This is seen with great appeal on the opening "Give Me A Clean Heart." Ledbetter's tenor tone is deeply rooted in soul, and on this instrument he prefers to lay back on melodies and phrases more than he does on soprano, as seen on "Holy, Holy, Holy."

Throughout pianist John Stoddart gives exceptional accompaniment. His comping and laying out of harmonies is never showy. Stoddart prefers to allow the sentiments as presented by Ledbetter to take center stage. There is never any musical conflict between the two as they harmoniously work to tell a common story. Do not think, however, that this means Stoddart doesn't have chops, becuase he does and displays them with aplomb on "Meditations." Walter Cosby's bass provides the rock the other two musicians stand on. With drums and percussion being used on only three of the CD's tracks, it falls to Cosby to hold the tempo together, and in this he is a rock.

With so many of this disc's compositions being familiar traditional songs, there will be much to relish in the Spirit. Highlights include "It Is Well," with a great percussion accompaniment by Milton Russ II, and "I Want Jesus To Walk With Me." For those looking for flash, move on, but for those who are looking for a spiritual event presented through an instrumental means, there will be much to admire.

 

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Tod Ledbetter
  • CD Title: Meditations: Hymns In The Key Of Jazz
  • Genre: Gospel
  • Year Released: 2011
  • Tracks: Give Me A Clean Heart, I Want Jesus To Walk With Me, Holy Holy Holy, It Is Well, Steal Away, Meditations, God Will Take Care Of You, Oh How I Love Jesus, Sweet Sweet Spirit, Just As I Am, Freedom Medley: Oh Freedom Amazing Grace Amen and Meditations Rhythm Reprise
  • Musicians: Tod Ledbetter (soprano and tenor saxophone), John Stoddart (piano and Fender Rhodes), Walter Cosby (bass), Howard Franklin (drums), Milton Russ II (percussion)
  • Rating: Four Stars
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