Infusing traditional gospel music with Memphis soul, Detroit-based singer Rance Allen helped pave the way for the secularized gospel sound of the '80s and '90s. After signing with Stax in 1969, Allen and his group proceeded to bring their hip brand of gospel to the masses by scoring several chart hits and opening concerts for the likes of Isaac Hayes. This hits package covers the group's successful run in the '70s, spotlighting Allen's incredibly flexible and powerful voice (one listens to cuts like "Ain't No Need of Crying" and "Gonna Make It Alright" and it's easy to figure out where Prince picked up his misty falsetto from). The selections include Allen's biggest Stax hit, "I Got to Be Myself," the spiritually reconfigured cover "Just My Imagination (Just My Salvation)," and modern gospel pioneer James Cleveland's "That Will Be Enough for Me."
Allen Toussaint's name became synonymous with New Orleans music, even though he didn't seem to "do" the records his name was on as producer, arranger, or writer on records by artists such as Ernie K-Doe or Irma Thomas. This is his first studio album in at least a decade, and it is a very worthy effort of all self-penned songs that seem to be a mix of old and new (if not in age, at least in feel). He is supported by an extremely worthy cast of the finest New Orleans musicians.
What sounds, except the dinner bell, could be as exhilarating as a baroque cantata for soprano and trumpet? Bach's solo Cantata #51, Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen, is deservedly one of his most popular and oft-performed, not only because its rousing strains could wake a congregation of beefy Bürghers any Sunday of the year but also because it's brilliantly constructed, a composition so refined that every phrase is crucial. The performance of it on this CD is as polished as any I've ever heard, and that would be enough to justify five-times-five stars, but the other soprano/trumpet pieces.
In Memoriam. Sad news as Geri Allen has passed away. RIP Geri Allen. Trio 3 played five evenings together with pianist Geri Allen in the New York jazz club Birdland, paying homage to the jazz pianist Mary Lou Williams. They presented fresh and individualistic interpretations of some of the most beautiful pieces of the "First Lady of Jazz". Intakt has recorded these evenings.