December 3, 2009

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Ike Sturm, JazzMass
self-released, Nov. 15

Sometimes things go together, like peanut butter and chocolate, gay politicians and anti-gay legislation. Man continues to prove that, on the other hand, some things don’t, such as gangsta rap and public service announcements, pop culture and real content, and so on. Jazz/classical bassist Ike Sturm, a young white guy if I’m reading his Web site’s needlessly blurry hi-res photos correctly, is the music director for the Jazz Ministry at St. Peters Church in Manhattan, the organization that commissioned this, an LP writing large the mostly downtempo “jazz services” Sturm has provided for some time now. The idea is gospel hymns sung by a choir while jazz players improvise, which in most other hands could have been so mawkishly rendered as to become the medicinal replacement for ipecac. But we’re in Manhattan, so this is probably the best possible result given the ingredients, which include Grammy-nominated tenor saxman Donny McCaslin. The sound is tightly woven big-modern-band jazz dominated by a Broadway element wafting from the letter-perfect choral group as led by rather nondescript soloists like Misty Ann Sturm, who channels Rent during her turns. Your mileage will vary as to how “religious” it sounds; there’s nothing outwardly wrong with it, but it’s decidedly more Miss Saigon than Ave Maria. A-Eric W. Saeger