Darron McKinney - The Breath of God Cd Review
The Breath of God
By Bob Marovich for The Black Gospel Blog
Once outlawed from all churches but the sanctified churches as a tool of jazz babies (at best) or the devil (at worst), the saxophone has since become the predominant solo instrument in gospel jazz.
Darron McKinney is one of today's sacred sax players. Coming from a musical family of ten siblings, he studied under jazz master Alvin Batiste at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and received a BET Jazz Discovery Award.
McKinney's new solo CD, The Breath of God, finds him expressing his religious feelings on soprano, tenor, and baritone sax. A portion of the album’s m.o is jazzing today’s gospel hits, such as “Nobody Greater,” Darius Paulk’s hit for VaShawn Mitchell, Marvin Sapp’s “The Best in Me,” and Mary Mary’s “Go Get It.” McKinney weaves his improvisational motives in, out, under, and around the main melodies that are carried by other instrumentalists or the background vocalists. Incidentally, Luther Jackson’s lead vocal on the album’s single, “Never Alone,” is the album’s standout vocal track.
Other album highlights include the Dixieland version of “This Little Light of Mine” and the contemporary gospel choir feel that the background vocalists give “In the Midst.” The traditional sensibility of “Grace and Mercy” is buoyed by a B3 warble.
While many of the album's offerings fall into the smooth jazz category, one notable exception is the eight-plus minute “A Child is Born.” McKinney does his most inspired work on this selection, punctuating with periodic blasts of brass the wistful and introspective atmosphere of a club combo playing in the early hours. On the other side of the aural spectrum, “War Cry” evokes the fever pitch of a Pentecostal service.
The liner notes do not indicate who participates on what track, so the fine piano work on “A Child is Born” and “This Little Light of Mine” might be from one of a number of keyboardists listed. Nevertheless, The Breath of God is a smooth way to cool down from a busy Sunday.
Three of Five Stars
Picks: “A Child is Born,” “War Cry.”