You know that roof-raising black church soul shouting the movies are always trying to reenact? Well, they’ve got the real thing going on at Times Square Church in downtown New York City. We Proclaim Him is one of their best releases on record, representing a wide range of musical styles.
Todd Williams, jazz saxophonist of Wynton Marsalis fame, is a music minister at the church. He lends his chops and two compositions to We Proclaim Him. The church released a version of We Proclaim Him as a special Christmas promotion. The focus on Jesus and first-person lyrical style make for a great alternative to weary carols. The Times Square Church Choir reminds us it’s still possible to craft fresh new expressions of faith.
The set starts out in high gear with "High Praise," featuring a rhythm section that would make Reverend Al Green proud, complete with horn stabs, swirling organ and up-to-the-minute R&B production techniques. The title track "We Proclaim Him," a Williams original, employs a synthesizer harpsichord for a neo-Baroque effect. If you heard the Contemporary Christian Music tour Handel’s Young Messiah, you’d say this track is similar. "Let Your Glory Fill This Place" is a memorable song that worship leaders everywhere could put to use. "Jesus Jehovah" features an infectious African groove and crowd of singers singing to the Lord with all their heart, soul and strength. "I Know He’s My Rock" is grounded by a tightly syncopated reggae rhythm; you’ll be humming the vocal hook for days.
Unlike so much Christian bookstore fodder, the Times Square Church Choir rings true. It’s not that every song is a certified hit, but the message behind the music is sincere. Obviously real worship is something you do, not something you listen to, so it’s important the musicians mean what they’re singing. The Times Square Church Choir clearly does. These are believers baring their souls to God. When you realize you aren’t the target audience at all, their intimacy is almost unsettling. Written as sing-along music, these songs might just inspire you to take that step. If so, the Times Square Church Choir has done their job well.
We Proclaim Him is a testimony to Times Square Church’s commitment to quality. Even the cover is a work of art: a old-timey illustrated crown above a gripping black and white aerial shot of downtown NYC, framed in solid red with classy white and gold lettering.
Recommended listening for Gospel fans, and jazz fans curious about Todd Williams’ current activities. Critics and churchgoers agree the highlights are "High praise," "We Proclaim Him," and "Let Your Glory Fill This Place." Proceeds go toward the church’s work in the poorest parts of the world.
"The ministry of Times Square Church is a reflection of New York City, its hometown, and this is perhaps one of the reasons that many visitors are led to exclaim, ‘This is what heaven will be like!’ when they see ‘a great multitude of people, nations and languages’ (Revelation 7:9) worshipping together under one roof." -exerpt from liner notes
David Seymour is a jazz journalist in Todd Williams’ hometown St. Louis, MO, USA.