All About Hymn – Guitar Jazz (2012)
By Bob Marovich for The Black Gospel Blog
In the liner notes to All About Hymn - Guitar Jazz, Apostle Ronnie “Diamond” Hoard writes that he “finally stepped from behind the mic to infuse traditional hymns with smooth contemporary jazz.”
That is exactly what is going on during this eleven-track album. Like a funky Wes Montgomery with the key to Les Paul’s magic closet, Hoard layers electric guitar, bass, and synth to reinterpret songs from the hymn book. The resultant jam sessions—many of which feature a multi-tracked Hoard on several instruments—are smooth, lively jazz fusion.
Hoard’s take on the hymns makes sense. He is a former member of the New Ohio Players and a good portion of the funk explosion of the 70s came from
Ohio. At one time in popular music, instrumentals
were more respected. In 1961, for
example, several instrumentals were on the Top 40 at the same time. Not so anymore.
Nevertheless, instrumentalists such as Hoard, Syreeta Thompson, Harold Rayford,
Don Byron, and others are using their skill to play the glory down.
The standout track on All About Hymn is “Where Could I Go.” Hoard uses an old-school jazz combo vibe to articulate the vintage gospel song in a way that pays homage to the memorable melody while at the same time improvising on it. “Pass Me Not” receives a similar treatment.
I preferred the songs with some vocals, such as “Jesus Saves,” “No Not One,” and “Lift Him Up” because they anchor the hymn in one’s mind before the musicianship takes it to a new dimension. At the same time, Hoard does not ad lib the essence of the hymn out of existence, but stays as true to the original melody as jazz will allow.
All About Hymn is the kind of easy-going interpretation of the classic hymns that will appeal to gospel jazz enthusiasts as well as those who do not consider themselves religious but enjoy guitar-driven smooth jazz.
Three of Five Stars
Picks: “Where Could I Go.”