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May 2000

Ruth Naomi Floyd
Walk and Not Be Faint
Contour

The ease of producing CDs and the proliferation of small, independent labels is broadening exposure for many artists, including divergent, rising-star vocalists supported by solid musicians. With her rich mid-range voice, Ruth Naomi Floyd dutifully serves the niche market of gospel-jazz.
Floyd teams up on the 14 tracks of her third Contour release, Walk and Be Not Faint, with album producer-pianist James Weidman, inventive drummer Mark Prince, guests Bobby Zankel (sax) and Talib Kibwe (flute) and others. The instrumentalists' imaginative expressions occasionally eclipse the obviously well-trained mezzo-soprano, who's been lauded for her refined gospel-jazz combination. While she's a skilled jazz interpreter (which she proves on a gorgeous version of "A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing"), her accrued discography primarily expresses her Christian faith. Floyd serves the Lord well on this recording. However, from a musical standpoint she fails to grab you with the same intensity of track two. Titled "One In the Spirit," that's a joyous, stirring adaptation of the hymn "They'll Know We Are Christians by Our Love," performed with her quartet featuring Zankel. Philadelphia-based Floyd ignores the bluesy tinges one might expect. Instead, her robust, impressionistic vocal escapades lean more toward concert stage than intimate jazz club, and thus come off as a bit too showy.

Originally published in May 2000
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