Kim Burrell - A Different Place (2015)

Kim Burrell
kim_burrell-differentplace.jpg
Click on CD cover
to listen or purchase

Impassioned gospel singers who take their skills seriously proudly proclaim that their performances are more than just exercising their technical ability. In other words, it is all about the anointing. But when it comes down to Kim Burrell’s thoughts on ministry and music in general, there is even more preparation involved. As a veteran recording artist and the contestants’ vocal GPS for the past few years on BET’s Sunday Best, her checklist of excellence goes way beyond the anointing. From being well informed on the genre for their performance, to understanding the scriptures and of course, bearing genuine soul into ministry, Burrell’s foolproof philosophy has drawn the respect of Sunday Best contestants, inspired the 2003 documentary on MTV, From The Church to The Charts, and has lifted the praises of her peers that cross all walks of music.

Impassioned gospel singers who take their skills seriously proudly proclaim that their performances are more than just exercising their technical ability. In other words, it is all about the anointing. But when it comes down to Kim Burrell’s thoughts on ministry and music in general, there is even more preparation involved. As a veteran recording artist and the contestants’ vocal GPS for the past few years on BET’s Sunday Best, her checklist of excellence goes way beyond the anointing. From being well informed on the genre for their performance, to understanding the scriptures and of course, bearing genuine soul into ministry, Burrell’s foolproof philosophy has drawn the respect of Sunday Best contestants, inspired the 2003 documentary on MTV, From The Church to The Charts, and has lifted the praises of her peers that cross all walks of music.

Burrell’s collaborations with diverse talents, from R&B-hip hop icon R. Kelly, to jazz/pop stylist Harry Connick Jr., to pop superstar Whitney Houston, is firm enough proof as to why she has been dubbed one of the greatest voices in contemporary urban music. With an extremely limber instrument encompassing intricate phrasing, pure power and a full understanding of several musical languages, Burrell is unafraid of taking melodic liberties by stretching the boundaries of standards such as “Love Me in A Special Way” and “Someone to Watch Over Me.” And her cover of Musiq Soulchild’s “Love,” alongside Shanachie labelmate Jeff Bradshaw, gracefully straddled the gospel/jazz stratosphere. Because of this ingrained belief system where there are no limits to musical expression and for the encouraging words she administers, Burrell has preached a gospel all her own to her peers and future gospel stars.

Her latest single, “Thank You Jesus (That's What He's Done),” a potpourri of disco and Burrell’s jazz swagger, is just a sample of what to expect on her now sixth project, A Different Place. Staying true to Burrell’s zone in preaching God’s Word within a variety of genres, this Shanachie release is a concrete textbook that future Sunday Best contestants could apply to their vocal arsenal. Burrell’s longtime trustworthy ear, producer/songwriter/musician Asaph Ward (The Love Album and Everlasting Life) pilots A Different Place by strictly focusing on Burrell’s extraordinary talents and musicality.

“Praise Groove” opens with a pocket of smooth R&B that meshes seamlessly with Burrell’s improvisational licks. Burrell pitches a scat overture to the studio engineer that sets the tone for “Falling in Love with You,” as her lead and background voices hug the funky grooves. “Have Faith in Me” develops into a neo-soul conversation with God, inspired by Stevie Wonder’s “Let’s Just Have a Talk With God” and Mark 11:23: “Speak to the mountain/And the mountain’s got to move.” Though Burrell’s limber voice is more than capable to handle effortless runs, quick key changes and everything in between, she confidently handles a no-thrills vocal approach.

The soft Latin frosted “I Worship” is draped with acoustic guitar and Burrell’s effective, powerful alto. Ward contributes a touching vocal cameo for “It is Done,” complete with a mass choir, symphony orchestra and Burrell’s emphatic message on realizing that every prayer is answered already according to one’s faith. And there are plenty more preaching points administered throughout A Different Place.

“Father I Stretch” weaves Burrell’s signature expressive delivery with a calm but potent message that points out the need for God through divorce, money issues, et.al. The extremely active atmosphere surrounding the shackle-breaking "I'm Free Indeed," with horn section shifts, robust drums and rapper 'Bro Hahz,' fuels Burrell’s vocal steam. And "Never Let Go," a lesson in building our confidence in God, floats in a sophisticated old-school soulful stream, where Burrell’s flexible chops team with saxophonist Donald Hayes and guitarist Jabari Johnson.

There is little with which to find fault on A Different Place.  With everything she pours out on wax, artistically and spiritually, Burrell backs up her musical belief system in a most compelling way.  In hindsight, A Different Place is not a different or drastic shift in her artistry compared to her previous work; it is simplya testament to her love of gospel ministry and the unapologetic fine art of making music.  Highly Recommended.

By Peggy Oliver

 
World Premiere - Chris Jasper - "For The Love of You"
Album of the Month - Jeffrey Dennis - "Lovin On You"
Featured Album - Leon Ware - "Rainbow Deux"

Leave a comment!