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Charenee Wade: Offering: The Music of Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson

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As producer Mark Ruffin explains in the liner notes, Offering is an apologia of sorts. Across his multi-decade career as broadcaster and journalist, Ruffin often crossed paths with Gil Scott-Heron. His knowledge of, and appreciation for, Scott-Heron’s work is arguably unsurpassed. Four years ago, Ruffin was working with vocalist Giacomo Gates on an album of Scott-Heron material. Its release overlapped with Scott-Heron’s untimely death and was, says Ruffin, wrongly recognized as a eulogistic tribute. The high quality of the Gates disc notwithstanding, Ruffin has wanted to shape a proper farewell ever since. Though the project was funded via Kickstarter, he jests that its true “kick-starter” was his introduction to vocalist Charenee Wade.

The majesty and might of Scott-Heron’s poetry, whether raised in protest or wrapped in hope, suits Wade well (and vice versa), her vocal style melding the suppleness of Dianne Reeves with the spirit of Abbey Lincoln. Drawing on Scott-Heron’s most fertile period through the 1970s, she and Ruffin choose wisely, shaping an impressively balanced playlist: The spiraling darkness of “Home Is Where the Hatred Is” and common-goals ethos of “Ain’t No Such Thing as Superman” are offset by the gently uplifting “Song of the Wind” and better-tomorrows anthem “I Think I’ll Call It Morning.” The project’s high points conjoin Wade’s vocals with spoken-word passages-Malcolm-Jamal Warner on the rallying cry “Essex/Martin, Grant, Byrd & Till” and Christian McBride on the tenderly unifying “Peace Go With You Brother”-that, in their polar-opposite ways, amplify Scott-Heron’s profundity.

Originally Published