|At times such as these, when the news headlines and accompanying photographs are so shocking, people often turn to religion to help them through. Some of us turn to spiritual music for solace and/or meditation.
Vibraphonist and Wesleyan Professor Jay Hoggard has teamed up with his good friend and keyboard artist James Weidman for a new recording. Titled "Songs of Spiritual Love" and released on Hoggard's JHVM label, it's a collection of African American spirituals and popular songs that are played straight from the heart and soul of the duo. Opening with a lovely rendition of "Lift Every Voice and Sing", the disk is a joy from beginning to end. Whether it's the sanctified soul of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" or the bluesy cry of "God Bless The Child", these songs are meant to soothe the troubled soul.
Nothing is rushed and nothing is clichéd. Even the Bachrach/David chestnut "What the World Needs Now is Love" is performed with grace and caring. Perhaps it's the bell-like tones of the vibraphone or the rich chordal background of the acoustic piano, but the music just soars. When Weidman switches to organ, one feels as if they're in the front pew.
It's rare when two fine improvisers get together and pay more attention to melody than to their "chops." There are certainly moments when they let loose ("I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free" for instance) but I believe that Hoggard and Weidman feel that their audience knows the words to many of these songs and will have an emotional reaction to these renditions. There is no proselytizing by the artists, just music from the heart and the soul and what a joyful sound they make.