Pettay has tapped into a truly joyful and worshipful vein, transcending the limitations of words and going straight to the creative wells of the soul
Jordan Pettay Music
9 tracks 53:39
Grooves for the spirit, mind, body, and soul will have you enthralled for the better part of an hour with First Fruit, Jordan Pettay’s premier venture into instrumental jazz. Backed by the very capable chops of Christian Sands (piano, Fender Rhodes, Hammond B3), Luke Sellick (bass), Jimmy MacBride (drums), and Joe McDonough (trombone), Pettay blows smooth, jazzy phrases on alto and soprano sax on these nine tracks – three of which are her original compositions. Of the remaining six songs, one is Coltrane’s “Straight Street,” the title of which alludes to the conversion of the Biblical Saul of Tarsus, and another is the R&B standard “You Make Me feel Brand New,” with Jordan’s own spirituality turning the radio hit into a song of re-birth and transformation.
For those that are counting, that leaves four remaining tracks – all of which are hymns or ‘spiritual songs,’ to use Biblical terminology – not that the casual listener would hear a ‘churchy’ vibe in the hip, jazzy treatment of Jordan’s arrangements. Pettay’s inspiration is clear from her liner notes and can be heard in the joyful, breezy invention of the album’s title-track, “First Fruits,” of which she says: “This album is my personal response to God’s call.” Her music follows in the footsteps of not only the mighty Coltrane (who had his own very spiritual side) but especially the tradition of more contemporary ‘Christian’ jazz artists like those that emerged from label groups like Brentwood Jazz years ago. Artists like Mark Douthit, Justo Almario, Sam Levine, Jack Jezzro, Gary Lunn and others created jazz for a part of the marketplace that wasn’t always receptived to that kind of music.
While the church eventually accepted a (usually) watered-down version of rock ‘n roll the wordless improvisation of jazz was harder to nail down for those requiring an up-front message. Victor Hugo said that music “expresses that which cannot be put into words,” and certainly that’s the case on First Fruit.
Jordan Pettay’s take on the hymns is refreshing. She’s made some great choices – songs with melodies that are ripe for improvisation as they are rich with meaning. Fanny Crosby’s “I Am Thine, O Lord” is cool, calming, and deep, and the radically-titled classic, “Are You Washed in The Blood” has a funky bass-driven vibe with unexpected chord treatments and that unmistakable melody washing over the body of the song. A deep groove for the deepest of messages.
So-called ‘praise and worship music’ notwithstanding, Pettay has tapped into a truly joyful and worshipful vein, transcending the limitations of words and going straight to the creative wells of the soul. Her soloing speaks volumes. Listen to the free-wheeling work of the whole band in the opening track, “Whatever Happens” – and is that a brief phrase from Zappa’s “King Kong” that I hear about half-way into the song? Could be – Pettay has handily held her own sitting in with The Ed Palermo Big Band, which focuses heavily on Frank’s music. So from Zappa to Fanny Crosby, this young woman with a horn is making her own kind of jazz.
…and if this is just the First Fruits I’m looking forward to what’s coming next.
- 4 tocks
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