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Ruth Naomi Floyd: With New Eyes

Many jazz artists have flirted with American gospel music but very few have attempted to build a discography explicitly dedicated to the word. Philadelphia-based vocalist Ruth Naomi Floyd, a soulful songbird/composer, continues her crusade to spread the gospel through the alluring power of urban-flavored jazz fusion on her second outing, With New Eyes. More akin to CeCe Winans than Aretha Franklin, Floyd hones a powerful authoritative soprano that soars like an eagle through the varying idioms that range from thrustful funk to airy waltz. Her swooping phrasing sometimes suggests a decidedly restrained Patti Labelle, while her sensibility for swing veers in the direction of Sheila Jordan.

Although her musical intent is heavenly, Floyd’s lyrics tend to lean too heavily towards the moralistic. Titles like “Reap What You Sow,” “Glass Ceilings” and “Holy! Holy! Holy” may disenfranchise the listener before the shrink wrap comes off. Luckily, transcendental treats like the blissful “Look Above,” which features remarkable vibraphone accompaniment from Bryan Carrott, and the rapturous rendering of “Some Other Spring” showcase her considerable talents with more glowing results. Floyd’s With New Eyes deserves a worthy listen regardless of religious affiliations.

Originally Published