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Michael Mindingall: Praisestrumentals

Not “praise instrumentals.” But “praisestrumentals,” one word. With this debut, pianist Michael Mindingall joins the smooth-jazz-praise music mini-movement as embodied recently by guitarist Tim Bowman and pianist Ben Tankard. This jazz for Jesus is anything but lightweight-no accompaniment for Debbie Boone ballads here. Like Ramsey Lewis’ recent and glorious “With One Voice,” Mindingall’s music is steeped with gospel influences and projects a joyous energy. So much so that you could imagine any of these 12 songs filling the halls of your neighborhood church.

The album’s title is misleading, however, and the majority of compositions feature some combination of male or female leads and gently encouraging background vocals. Mindingall is billed as a smooth-jazz artist, so unless gospel is your bag, the lyrics will probably get in the way of any enjoyment you might get from grooving to the top-notch playing from Mindingall and his band. The best tunes on the CD are indeed the few true instrumentals-the piano solo “Me & God,” the groove-and-funk “Expressions” and especially “A Holy Rock Praise,” a reggae tune with a screaming rock solo and whistle-stops that may have you checking times for Sunday’s first service.

Originally Published