Hand In Hand
The solo instrument of choice for Gospel jazzists is by far and away, the saxophone. There’s a reason for that, because worked correctly, the sax can take on several of the characteristics of the Gospel singer, from the low moan of a Mahalia Jackson to the warmth of a Tramaine Hawkins to the piercing praise of a Yolanda Adams.Producers: Various
album release date: November, 2000
You can probably name a few anointed saxophonists off the top of your head. Kirk Whalum, Salathiel, Angéella Christie, Donald Hayes, these names may all come to mind. Rob Maletick may be a name unfamiliar to most, but with this sophomore project Hand In Hand, the work of this DC-native surely belongs in the same class.
Consider that the title cut is a joint effort from both Whalum and Maletick, and you’ll see where this is going. “Hand in Hand” runs on a wonderfully syncopated and evasive melodic motif based on a descending scale. Just when you think you’ve grasped the handle of
the tune, in comes Whalum on tenor sax, or Maletick on the soprano cousin, to take it away with flights of glorious improvs that often resolve with both instruments melting together in busy harmonies.
The Youthful Spirits
Catch Rob Maletick as part of The Youthful Spirits. A vocals-based group with several of the same players as on Hand In Hand, they bring a strong percussion-based vibe (congas and cowbells included) and can deliver a sanctified go-go edge. Their fourth project, The Music, The Ministry, The Mission was recorded live and has strong worship focus with fifteen tracks of all-out praise.
On other cuts ("Answers", "Lift Up Your Hands") Maletick shows himself to be a master of expression on his instrument; so fluid is his style that you frequently forget that this sound is not a voice you’re hearing. And it helps to be surrounded by gifted sideman such as T.J. Nokes, Zach Fisher and James R. Wigington.
The two vocals-based cuts on the project are worthy. Meesha Fields delivers a soulfully light and airy vocal on “Sweeter Name”, with a moving and tender expression of the delight of knowing and speaking with Jesus. Catch the lyrics. On "For All The World to See", Kevin Whalum (brother of Kirk) lends his low-register voice to the slow and meditative original hymn, as Maletick and piano man Jim Hammerly support.
As good as the first several songs are, the latter half of the project simply explodes into instrumental raptures of praise, significantly helped by the fact that it was recorded live at First AME Church in Manassas, Virginia. It’s a five-song set that reprises some of the studio cuts presented in the first half of the disc. You could rightly call this an all-out Gospel jam, with a quality that will satisfy the most outrageous connoisseur of the genre.
The live version of "Lift Your Hands" comes packaged with some hefty and catchy chorus vocals with sax renderings weaving throughout. On "Hymn Medley", Maletick packs several church favs into eight minutes plus of a creatively-supported work that moves from softer treatments to lively hoists of praise.
"Walking The Path" first made its mark as the title track on Maletick’s debut project. Intensely melodic, it’s simply off the hook here, with Wigington’s funky work with bass and keys, Nokes’ unrestrained guitar, and Fisher’s dry rhythm splashes generating an intricate wall of let-loose worship. Pay particular note to Fishers’ awesome 70-second, drum solo near the end of the track.
You’ll want to move this project to the top of your pile, it’s enjoyable on multiple levels. Whether you enjoy getting your jazz praise on, or whether you simply love good Gospel, Hand In Hand proves to be more than sufficient to satisfy.
reviewed by Stan North —
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