(Geri Allen, piano; Ron Carter, bass; Jimmy Cobb, drums; Guests: Carmen Lundy & George Shirley, vocals; Wallace Roney, trumpet, Donald Walden, tenor sax; Atlanta Jazz Chorus/Dwight Andrews, dir.)
Pianist Allen offers here the type of jazz album which a number of other performers have released recently – combining jazz with a spiritual message, but doing it in a swinging manner which has much appeal. The heritage of Afro-American culture is another connecting thread in this collection. The idea of jazz reaching out with its openness and diversity is also a theme. Some of the tracks are profound expressions from this versatile pianist/composer/arranger. The bonus CD has only an under-four-minute version of what has become the Black American anthem – Lift Every Voice and Sing. George Shirley is the stirring vocalist, with the Atlanta Jazz Chorus. (I’m not sure I understand why it is provided on a second CD when there was plenty of room for it on the first CD.) Shirley is also heard in Allen’s musical setting of the words of Martin Luther King in I Have a Dream.
All the guest artists are superb, and of course Carter and Cobb make up one of the finest rhythm sections to be found in jazz today. Allen takes a few exciting solos but the emphasis is on the flow of the 15 selections and their contributions to the album’s spiritual message. The entire project is beautifully produced and recorded.
Tracks: Oh Freedom, Melchezedik, Portraits and Dreams, Well Done, La Strada, I Have a Dream, Nearly, In Real Time, Embraceable You, Ah-Leu-Cha, Just for a Thrill, Our Lady (for Billie Holiday), Timeless Portraits and Dreams, Lift Every Voice and Sing.
– John Henry