Truly spirited

Andrew Jamieson is the Minister of Music at Bethel Community Presbyterian Church in San Leandro, Calif. He's a pianist by trade, and he loves spirituals. All very nice.

Andrew Jamieson
Heard the Voice
What he really is, however, is an artist. These visions of spirituals are probably not what most listeners might have in mind. Jamieson's technique is Monk times ten, with all sorts of movement and rhythm built around the melodies of the songs themselves. It's possible to pick out the original lines, but that would be like wandering through the forest looking for just one tree.

While cacophony abounds, this is not a deconstructionist take. Rather, Jamieson exalts the core of each spiritual with a rush of chords and stabs. He's not worried about the occasional blue note; he's going total picture here.

And by incorporating speed, fury and the occasional disregard for melody, Jamieson is getting at the heart of the creation of these songs. Spirituals were not the songs of happy slaves working in the fields. They were songs sung in defiance of oppression. Sung simply, they have a rare beauty and grace. But Jamieson's treatment restores them to their original power.

That power is something that we still need to reconcile today. These renditions are stirring in their own right, but they also stir up thoughts of anger and rage over the repression that still exists. We need more inspiration to instigate change. This album is a great way to start.

Jon Worley

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