Like evangelistic sax great Kirk Whalum, versatile vocalist/guitarist Jonathan Butler has drawn upon his success in contemporary urban jazz to create opportunities in the realm of worship and gospel music. The South African-born artist launched this phase of his career with 2004's The Worship Project and has since anchored his live jazz performances with the crowd-pleasing "Brand New Day" and "Falling in Love with Jesus." While tracks like the title tune "Grace and Mercy," "You're All That I Need," and "Who Is Like the Lord" are rousing, choir-filled, R&B-driven call and response church tunes, the crux of what Butler is going for on this dynamic and heartfelt set is his simple but emotional exhortation on the passionate reflective ballad "Moments of Worship" to "Lift those hands…give glory to God."
Amidst a new album bursting with hope, joy, romance and inspiration, including eleven songs penned or co-penned by the artist, it’s the Johnny Nash cover “I Can See Clearly Now” that Jonathan Butler elected to record on the So Strong album, his 15th solo collection, that speaks volumes about his outlook after a tumultuous year wrought with immense personal loss, pain and suffering.
Defining Polish composer Ignacy Jan Paderewski’s musical personality inevitably sends commentators rushing for comparisons with influential predecessors and contemporaries: Chopin is usually in the lead, followed in short order by Liszt, Wagner and Rachmaninov. But at his best, and that is very much the case with the works recorded here, there is much more to Paderewski. Chopin may be clearly evident in the Piano Sonata of 1903, but a distinctive and distinguished melodic voice shines through in the slow movement and everywhere there is always a strong sense of forward momentum. The A minor Variations from the mid-1880s inhabit a very different world. A soulful, almost neo-Baroque theme sets the tone for wide-ranging figuration over which the spirit of Brahms hovers perceptibly. Although the E flat minor Variations were originally composed at much the same time, a major rewrite in 1903 gave them far greater scope and seriousness with much richer textures and a questing musical accent sometimes of quite modernist cut. In Jonathan Plowright these works have a near-ideal interpreter. Not only does he negotiate Paderewski’s dizzying virtuoso demands with evident ease, but also his ability to bring an almost string-like tone to the more lyrical passages constantly fascinates in this excellent recording.
With this CD, Jonathan Dunford completes his project to record all of the known unpublished pièces de viole of Marin Marais. They survive uniquely, without concordances, in Marais’s own hand in a manuscript, found in the National Library of Scotland, that belonged to a young Scottish contemporary. Although the manuscript provides only the viol part, Dunford’s colleagues happily improvise continuo parts on a second viol, a theorbo or a Baroque guitar and a harpsichord – inspired, they say, by jazz.