Jazz and gospel music are branches of the same glorious African-American cultural tree and have influenced each other throughout their long histories. Gospel has been a source of inspiration to many jazz musicians, and its influence has been especially pronounced in the sacred works of Duke Ellington and Mary Lou Williams. Conversely, it was a former jazz and blues pianist, Thomas A. Dorsey, who as the composer of such songs “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” “It’s a Highway to Heaven,” and “Peace in the Valley” was the principal architect of what is today known as gospel music.
“It’s my belief that jazz would not exist in the form it does today if not for black gospel music and its contributors,” pianist and composer Enoch Smith Jr. wrote in a column titled “Bringing the Gospel to Jazz: A Misfit’s Theme” that appeared in the September 2016 issue of Down Beat magazine.
Smith continues working full time at Allentown Presbyterian Church, where his duties include playing piano, composing original music, directing music programs for children of all ages, and creating power-point presentations for services. He has recorded as a sideman with Mimi Jones, saxophonist Stantawn Kendrick, drummer Reggie Quinerly, and saxophonist-singer Camille Thurman, among others, and since the summer of 2016 has been touring as an organist with fast-rising blues-and-soul singer-saxophonist Vanessa Collier.
The Quest is the latest recorded chapter in Smith’s ongoing search to find a seamless synthesis of jazz and gospel and a balance between the spiritual and technical aspects of his creativity. As evidenced by every magnificent performance on the CD, his goal is well within reach. •
Web Site: www.MisfitMe.com