Bradley Sowash is quite simply one of the best pianists on the contemporary scene. It is impossible to pigeon-hole him into one category, as his style continues to evolve and grow, making each of his recordings a unique experience. We Gather Together
is a fascinating collection of jazz arrangements and improvisations on some of the best-loved hymns and spirituals of all time. Sowash’s solo piano is so strong and expressive that he commands an entire orchestra, choir, and congregation with his ten fingers and eighty-eight keys! His arrangements are extremely personal, and yet communicate universally. Many of the arrangements include traditional gospel styles as part of the “theme and variations”, and others are a bit “smoother”. The addition of the history of many of the hymns as well as Sowash’s personal experiences in putting this album together make reading the liner notes richly satisfying, adding even more dimension to the work as a whole.
The collection opens with “Amazing Grace”, probably the best-known and best-loved American hymn of all time. Sowash gives it both sacred and secular treatments. “Wade in the Water” is a real treat and one of my favorites. With ragtime and stride elements, this is a toe-tapper! “Jesus Loves Me” was a real surprise. A favorite childhood Sunday School song, I never would have imagined that the sweet, simple little melody could become such a complex jazz tune! Great fun! I wasn’t familiar with “Deep River”, but this arrangement is evocative and funky at the same time. Dark and earthy with lots of deep bass notes and chords, this is another favorite. “There Is a Balm in Gilead” takes a somewhat quieter approach, and builds momentum as it develops. All fourteen tracks are excellent, and give a showcase to Sowash’s broad range of styles while keeping a cohesive theme. I give We Gather Together
both thumbs up and am including it in my “Best of 2001” list. Very highly recommended!
We Gather Together
is currently available from bradleysowash.com
and amazon.com as well as retail Christian outlets around the country.