Spiritual Impressions finds journeyman pianist James Weidman wading through the deep waters, alternately troubled and joyful, of African-American spirituals. He imbues these gems with driving grooves, some intriguing reharmonizations and bracing solos. All serve to freshen up enduring pieces that remain deeply meaningful to so many.
Weidman, best known as a sideman with the likes of Cassandra Wilson, Joe Lovano and the late Abbey Lincoln and Kevin Mahogany, makes a superb match with gospel-rooted singer Ruth Naomi Floyd, for whom the pianist has produced and arranged several recordings. She’s a natural, embodying the spirituals’ simultaneous reference to spiritual bliss and the struggles associated with slavery and its aftermath.