by Peter Bacon, London Jazz News

The Baylor Project is husband and wife team Marcus – former drummer with Yellowjackets – and Jean – a versatile soul-jazz singer who has sung guest vocals with, among others, Yellowjackets and Marcus Strickland’s Twi-Life – she appeared with the band at last year’s Cheltenham Jazz Festival.

The pair share a church background and the gospel feel is there right from the start, with Block Party, which opens with old-school dropping of needle onto vinyl and has a real party feel along with good-time handclaps, followed by Great Is Thy Faithfulness, the hymn given a contemporary jazz treatment.

Guests – and there are many – include pianist/organist Shedrick Mitchell, saxophonist Bob Mintzer, guitarist Marvin Sewell and trumpeter Freddie Hendrix, but the music is strongly aligned around the foreground of Jean’s imperious vocals and the foundation of Marcus’s propulsive drums.

The rest of the programme roams far and wide, from interpretations of jazz standards like Afro Blue and Herbie Hancock’s Tell Me A (Bedtime) Story to Great American Songbook gems like Summertime,  Tenderly and Our Love Is Here To Stay, plus a few interspersed Baylor originals.
Although the standards are given sumptuous and perfectly fitting arrangements, I could have done with more substantial originals I think.

Nevertheless it’s a generous, charming album with a rich sound which places a marker in the sand and promises a solid future. The abiding strength of the project is its joyousness, and that counts for a lot.

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