23 March 2006

Joshua Lebofsky's Sacred Soul (CD Review)

Joshua Lebofsky: Play a Little Prayer
(self-released)

Canadian singer/pianist Joshua Lebofsky apparently gets around. His first email arrived from Dubai. Then his album arrived, packing inspiration, he says, from "prayers both sacred and secular" from sources including West African, Native American, and Judeo-Christian traditions. It's a lot he has bitten off, but not too much to chew.

The opener, "Cecil's Psalm," give credit to Cameroon, and serves as a jazzy invocation: "Oh Lord, open up my lips / I'll sing thy praise." More obviously African is "The Briss" from Ivory Coast, with insistent djembes, vocal harmonies, and a sizzling trombone solo sneaking into the mix. The first real taste of Lebofsky's voice comes on his bold reinterpretation of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song," which takes on a sparse soulfulness well suited to his gravely-but-crisp tones. Lots of other flavors too, from the jazz-funk of "Demon Dance" to the slow "Nearer My God to Thee," on which Lebofsky shows off the more flexible gospel side of his voice. "Funeral Song" claims Native American roots, but sounds rather more like not-so-mournful jazz.

If you think sacred equals stuffy (or preachy), Lebofsky's ability to transform sacred songs may give you second thoughts. Or no thoughts at all, if you just sit back and soak in the inspiration.

artist site : buy CD/hear samples : hear full-length songs
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