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July/August 2005

Wycliffe Gordon and the Garden City Gospel Choir
In the Cross
Criss Cross Jazz

It didn't convert this fallen Catholic, and at 72 minutes it could have been a little shorter, but there are moments during In the Cross that seem to channel some strong spirit-be it holy or rhythmic. Trombonist Wycliffe Gordon bridged the gap between gospel and jazz five years ago with The Gospel Truth. For In the Cross, he takes it a step further by adding an 11-voice choir on several of the tracks played by his sextet. The pairing adds to the sound, evoking both Donald Byrd's A New Perspective and the sanctified moments of Charles Mingus, especially when Gordon gets ahold of his plunger mute. In particular, his solo on "I Want Jesus to Walk With Me" sounds like a human voice speaking in tongues.

Of the 12 tracks, Gordon wrote or cowrote four, with the rest drawing heavily on traditional church tunes, such as "I Came to Jesus," "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" and "Wade in the Water," the latter notable for the way the choir and horns seem to answer one another.

Many of the songs seem to rely on similar, bluesy changes, which can make them sound too samey. Two versions of the original "All Day Long, Sang My Song, Going Home" appear, and both contain more than enough of Gordon scatting along with Richard Johnson's piano solo. But then again, maybe Gordon wanted to evoke the lengthy commitment required at Sunday services.

Originally published in July/August 2005
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