Justin Time Records
If you've yet to discover the wonders of Jeri Brown, waste no time in finding a copy of Firm Roots (Justin Time). Conceived during the turbulent aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the ninth studio album from Canada's resident queen of soulful jazz is, she says, intended as "one woman's point of view about living during these particular times." Searching for universal songs of healing, Brown and her long-standing associates-bassist Avery Sharpe, drummer Wali Muhammad and pianist Tony Suggs-have unearthed a trove of intriguing treasures. Who'd have imagined that Billy Preston's "Will It Go Round in Circles?" could be transformed into a gutsy hymn to fatalism or that Seals and Crofts' folksy "We May Never Pass This Way Again" could be filled with such hopefulness? Conversely, who could fail to appreciate the motivational muscle of Brown's joyful treatments of Stevie Wonder's "With a Child's Heart" and Burt Bacharach's "What the World Needs Now"? Ah, but it's Erich Kory's "Life's Journey" that resonates strongest. When Brown sings that, "trusting souls can make a difference," we feel our own pain lifting, faith renewed in our collective humanity.