For the Beauty of the Earth
For the Beauty of the Earth Bradley Sowash's final release in the acclaimed trilogy of hymns and spirituals for solo jazz piano has a decidedly personal feel. Some of the selections emphasize nature such as Shall We Gather By he River, The Ash Grove, and the title cut, For the Beauty of the Earth. Others dig deeply into jazz traditions such as the blues inflected Go Down Moses or a striding This Little Light of Mine. Whatever the style, Sowash's unique take on these timeless melodies both surprises and delights. Four bonus tracks include sample cuts from previous recordings. Designer Bryan Huber's spiritually suggestive packaging contributes to the sense of intimacy with a scrapbook format that includes excerpts from the artist's journals, pressed leaves and Frank Hunter's haunting photos of earthly pathways. Sowash is in constant demand as a solo jazz piano concert artist. He has been touring throughout the US and Europe since 1983. Billboard Magazine declared 'he can really move an audience along with zest and wit.' Review: ChristianityToday.com (April 05) by Russ Breimeier Ohio's Bradley Sowash is familiar to PBS viewers as a regular guest on 'The Piano Guy,' as well as NPR listeners who have heard his recordings regularly played on 'Morning Edition.' A composer, educator, and acclaimed pianist, Sowash has toured concert halls and churches alike for more than twenty years. He's recorded six instrumental albums, but this is his third disc of hymns and spirituals for jazz piano in the last four years-and reportedly his final, since it completes a trilogy. Those who enjoyed Chris Rice's Living Room Sessions albums will love this. Sowash's technique incorporates more jazz, which makes it a more lively experience suitable for active or passing listening. Sowash gives a boogie-woogie feel to 'Glory, Glory Hallelujah' while gliding through some bluesy runs in the title track and 'Go Down Moses.' Other highlights include a breezy, bouncy take on 'This Little Light of Mine' and a playfully varied 'Doxology.' Sowash goes the extra mile by offering more than a pretty collection of hymn arrangements. He remains true to the familiar melodies, yet infuses them with personality for an artistically refreshing worship experience. Review: All About Jazz (Feb. 05) By David Rickert Jazz has always had a close tie to religion, from it's roots in gospel music and spirituals to the divine musical quests of Coltrane and the Sacred Concerts of Ellington. However, few artists have mined the hymnal directly for source material, and fewer still have then recorded albums that have reflection and meditation as their key goal. Bradley Sowash has dedicated part of his career to playing religious music in a jazz context. For the Beauty of the Earth is the third in a series of solo piano readings of religious music, and many of these tunes, like 'Doxology' and 'This Little Light of Mine' will be familiar even to casual churchgoers. Sowash doesn't wander too far off from the melody of any of these tunes, but this is as it should be-he isn't using this music as a jumping off point, but rather a chamber filled with endless new ideas. Triumphant hymns become introspective washes with floating chords and stolid, reverent songs of praise get a kick of stride. He reworks the melodies slightly, adding new melodic ideas to these old hymns, played with a lovely, crystalline texture reminiscent of George Winston with a little more swing. As wonderful as it is, this recording would sound out of place as background music at a dinner party. Instead, this is a Sunday morning CD, much more welcome with a cup of coffee than a glass of wine. Sowash designs his music to be part of the religious fabric, and in the end whether or not you like this recording depends on your interest in music with this in mind. He intends his playing to be inwardly fulfilling for himself as well as spiritually rewarding for the listener, but at the very least he accomplishes what many jazz musicians set out to do: take familiar songs and rework them into a pleasant listening experience. Listener Comments: You've done it again! I'm enjoying this one as much as the last. Keep it up! - Marion D. Great pianist! OOH! WOW! GOD giveth Bradley Sowash a talent to play the piano. - Andy from Malaysia.