Beautiful, soulful gospel record by Jimetta Rose and The Voices of Creation, a Los Angeles-based community choir, a mainstay of the local scene. Highly recommended!!
The Voices of Creation are a community-based choir led by vocalist, songwriter, arranger, producer and mainstay of the Los Angeles scene Jimetta Rose. Made up of a multigenerational group of mainly non-professional singers backed by some of the city’s finest musicians,their music marries hip strains of gospel with layers of jazz, soul and funk. While aspects of their music might recall Kamasi Washington, The Staple Singers or Sly Stone, Jimetta’s unique vision has resulted in new spiritually-charged forms of music whose whole-hearted embrace of love, joy and peace act as sonic healing balms for the soul.
For Jimetta - whose resume includes collaborations with Miguel Atwood Ferguson, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Sa-Ra Creative Partners, Angel Bat Dawid, Shafiq Husayn, MED and Blu - the very act of creation was part of a healing process: “I was very low at the time and I wrote most of the songs going through hardship. But I found comfort in the songs and a way to adjust my mindset to where things got better. So I thought ‘if this music works for me, maybe it will work for other people’ I believe that every person has their own voice and their own note and that we can use our voices to heal ourselves. That’s the intention behind creating the project.”
After putting out a call on social media for people interested in joining her choir she was met with a sea of replies. Members were chosen in less-than conventional fashion: “I recruited people based on their interest in healing themselves and others, not necessarily on their musical experience or being seasoned performers” she says. Among those accepted into the ever-evolving collective, which was begun initially as a community choir, were the likes of Sly Stone’s daughter Novena Carmel, better known as a radio DJ for KCRW’s flagship breakfast show. Jimetta’s upbringing in the Pentecostal church, where she was a youth choir director, fed into her otherwise intuitive teachings of her songs and arrangements to the inexperienced members with help from the group’s seasoned organ player/co-musical director Jack Maeby.
Produced by Mario Caldato Jr. (Beastie Boys, Seu Jorge) and his wife Samantha Caldato the results show the incredible sense of togetherness and communal spirit that the group had built up over time in the rehearsal sessions. The six tracks of their debut album, a mixture of originals and rearranged covers, are performed in a wide-eyed mix of styles that reflect Jimetta’s vision for borderless music: “It’s new black classical music,” she explains. “It’s all the hodgepodge of being an African American but also with creativity and vision for the future. It has a taste of what is to come and what we can do. What we have gone through and who we are now.”
The group’s propensity for warm and buoyant sonics finds representation on album opener Let The Sunshine In, a sparkling rework of the Sons and Daughters of Lite’s deep jazz classic. Their version finds the group’s dynamic group harmonies offset with Allakoi Peete’s nimble afro-percussive touches and plenty of soul- drenched keys courtesy of pianist Quran Shaheed and organ player Jack Maeby. A similarly uplifting take on Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s choral jazz classic Spirits Up Above follows, with Maeby’s groove-laden organ lines inspiring some gorgeous group harmonies as well as prime solo turns from the likes of Kellye Hawkins, Zavier Wise, Tamara Blue, and Khalila Gardner.
Another Sons and Daughters of Lite cover follows as Jimetta leads the choir in the groove-drenched ode to self-affirmation Operation Feed Yourself. Written as a series of mantras for everyday living, the Jimetta-penned composition How Good It Is harnesses the full transformative power of music to generate a stirring and joyful ode to positivity - it’s chanted declarations bringing out some of the group’s most deeply-felt and affecting vocal performances over some superlative piano and organ accompaniment with a surprise feature vocal from Novena Carmel.
Jimetta’s talent for re-imagining songs in her own light is highlighted in Answer The Call, her vivid re-telling of Funkadelic’s Cosmic Slop: “When I listened to the original song, the Mom in the story was really going through it. I thought of how I could turn this into a song that can encompass the glorification of all mothers and I thought of the Egyptian cosmic goddess Nut. To that mother we’re all the seeds planted in the garden. Answering the call in your life is literally that. Finding out exactly what you’re here for through your heart.”
The album finishes with the standout original gospel number Ain’t Life Grand. Over swaying organs and clapped percussion Jimetta’s lyrical mantras serve to emphasise the good feelings that come to those with a grateful heart. Good feeling is an apt descriptor for the mood of the album as a whole. Its shining positivity provides a welcome ray of light in an increasingly dark world. “It’s a shortcut if you will to the better feelings” Jimetta says. “The hope that we need to keep pressing forward. We are saturated and inundated with images of chaos and destruction, death and hatred. There’s so much we can witness. So, I want to make sure that there is a representation sonically of the other parts that are still there to witness so that we can continue to build those things. So that the systems we support actually reflect what we want to experience. So it’s like: “Don’t give up and Let The Sunshine Into You” and then find out what your purpose is and answer the call.”