THE WORD: John Medeski: Organ, Piano, and Keys, Robert Randolph: Pedal steel guitar, THE NORTH MISSISSIPPI ALLSTARS: Luther Dickinson, guitar, Cody Dickinson, drums, and Chris Chew, bass.
THE JEFF HAAS TRIO: "Hagesher Chai The Bridge Lives" - Jeff Haas, Piano, Chuck Hall, Bass and Alex Trajano, Drums, Special guests: Marcus Belgrave, trumpet , Miri Ben-Ari, Violin, Rob Smith, Saxophones, John Alfieri, Percussion.
Two superb recordings have been released this year which, even though have their foundation in religion, should be accessible to anyone who enjoys good music. Since both albums are instrumental recordings which draw more heavily on jazz concepts than religious ones, it would be difficult to identify either one as overtly religious without having first read the liner notes.
The Word--- which features the talents of John Medeski (Medeski, Martin and Wood) is inspirationally seeped in the sounds of the centuries -old style of gospel music dubbed Sacred Steel---but artfully mixed with inventiveness and modernism. The music is adventurously progressive without denying the homage to the roots of the House of God Church (a Pentecostal church known for its’ bluesy style of gospel hymns). The songs are a blend of self-penned and traditional gospel tunes which are consistently endearing, emotionally moving that as often as not- rock (in a jazzy sort of way).
On the other hand, with Hagesher Chai The Bridge Lives (a jazz suite in 8 movements) Jeff Haas creatively merges his Judaic and classical roots into a musical collection which unapologetically exhibits itself as straight-ahead-jazz. A lifelong Motown resident, Jeff Haas draws his musical values from a amalgamation of growing up with the popular culture music that was overwhelming the streets of Detroit in the sixties, and being the attentive son of the Jewish Temple Music Director/Organist. (His father is Karl Haas-- of the NPR syndicated radio show "Adventures In Good Music"). This intensively creative recording is Mr. Haas’ very successful attempt to capture his perspective of the world in music. Haas explains in an interview given to Detroit’s Sunday Journal, "It’s all about building bridges between generations, races, continents, cultures, the past and the present." Mr. Haas makes a gallant attempt at bringing music and social consciousness together which succeeds in great part simply because he excels with his compositional abilities that his band executes flawlessly.
Listening to these two albums reconfirms to me that, no matter where your beliefs lie, that good music-no matter which genre-- can be a spiritual experience and an inspirational journey.