Sunday, September 28, 2008

Jai Reed - Anointed for Purpose (TLR/Fontana)

Anointed for Purpose
Jai Reed
TLR/Fontana 2007

It takes a really gusty artist to start a solo project with an acappella track. It’s the aural equivalent of the dreaded Hollywood close-up, exposing every imperfection.

But Jai (Jabial) Reed has nothing to worry about. There are no imperfections on his exceptional album, Anointed for Purpose. And not only does “Sanctuary” showcase his expressive voice, but it also sets a marvelous tone for the remainder of the album.

In fact, there’s not a weak track among the eleven on Anointed for Purpose, seven of which the Pensacola, Florida-based Reed had a hand in writing (others are by such singer-songwriter luminaries as Thomas Whitfield, Andrae Crouch, and Bill Gaither).

What distinguishes Reed among his peers is the natural way in which he blends traditional vocalizing with a contemporary interpretation. This combination is most evident on Gaither’s “He Touched Me,” where Reed begins in a strictly traditional vein with prominent piano, but switches gears midstream and concludes with a smoldering beat. In other songs the combination is more subtle but noticeable nevertheless.

The current single, “Anointed Me” and another top track, “Have I Told You” demonstrate Reed’s ability to sell a gospel ballad, the vamp on the latter clearly aimed at getting saints up and on their feet, even those who have difficulty standing. I'm sure that Reed has garnered comparisons to Smokie Norful in his melismatic vocal delivery.

The producer could have let the tape run a little longer on the final track, the lovely “Always Remember,” because it fades out just as Reed is getting his second wind, but that’s nitpicking. Jai Reed is a great new talent, and even though Anointed for Purpose is a marvelous project, I have the distinct impression that his finest work is still to come.

TBGB Note: Go to Jai Reed's My Space page and hear his version of the Porgy and Bess jazz classic "Summertime," long a favorite of gospel artists. Reed gives it a reading that conjures up images of Luther Vandross and James Ingram.

Four of Four Stars

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