June April - What Am I? (2007)

June April
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Gospel music is proving to be a durable artistic genre as one of the few areas of music showing growth.   That's something rap, rock and pop can't claim as steep drop-offs in sales plague most of the industry. Due in part to gospel's ability to thrive as both a medium of art and ministry, it has placed secular listeners and people of faith together in the same musical pews. 

Jazz and Gospel while stylistically compatible in modern music, do also seem like aesthetically ‘strange bedfellows'.  After all, some of jazz's finest moments have come alive in the less-than-hallowed ground, of late-night, smoke-filled clubs, with plenty of hard liquor flowing. (Not exactly the place a high-minded believer would frequent.)  And many times played by genius musicians that would never be mistaken for saints.

Gospel music is proving to be a durable artistic genre as one of the few areas of music showing growth.   That's something rap, rock and pop can't claim as steep drop-offs in sales plague most of the industry. Due in part to gospel's ability to thrive as both a medium of art and ministry, it has placed secular listeners and people of faith together in the same musical pews. 

Jazz and Gospel while stylistically compatible in modern music, do also seem like aesthetically ‘strange bedfellows'.  After all, some of jazz's finest moments have come alive in the less-than-hallowed ground, of late-night, smoke-filled clubs, with plenty of hard liquor flowing. (Not exactly the place a high-minded believer would frequent.)  And many times played by genius musicians that would never be mistaken for saints.

However, musical trailblazers as different as Duke Ellington and Take 6 have helped forge a critical direction for Christian music by driving it through a jazz landscape.  While it's no news that ‘church girls' can sing, Harlem's own June April takes up a different mantle than most of her ‘soul-sangin' sisters'.   She brings the "good news" using a another African-American musical tradition. The independently-produced CD, What Am I?, is neosoulful jazz with a higher calling.   June April with the help of indie soul's "go-to" producer, Teddy Crockett, takes you on an eclectic pilgrimage made up of original songs and spirituals using soul, jazz, r&b balladry, spoken word, and traditional gospel.  She gets you ‘soul head-nodding' and soul searching on the cuts "tick tock" and "ready".   By contrast, on  "somebody's knocking at your door" you're doing the old time church stomp in the aisle (shaking your tambourine, of course).  June April's soothing scatwork on "at the cross" almost makes you forget that you're being pastored  to.  Crockett produces a diverse, yet coherent musical statement that highlights June April's faith, vocal technique, and on the final (live) cut, disarming sense of humor.   As a team June April and Crockett craft a project that makes strong cases for concurrent play on both gospel and jazz radio stations.

By Les Clarke
 

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