JazzMass is a carefully and thoughtfully composed Tridentine liturgy. Sturm’s vision of the liturgy is one that swings with genius composing and soloing. Saxophonist Donny McCaslin (who is making a cottage industry of sacred jazz) solos robustly on the angular “Gloria,” with trumpeter Ingrid Jensen turning in beautifully toned solo (this is the sound Chet Baker might have had had he cared). Sturm’s composing is complex and captivating, multi-layered and textured.

Misty Ann Sturm, a classically trained vocalist, provides a powerful lyricism to Sturm’s compositions. Ike provides a solo bass interlude between “Gloria” and “Just As I Am,” where he displays highly technical chops that are not so showy as to drown the melody underlying the piece. “Just As I Am” again features an intense tenor saxophone solo by McCaslin, who plays with a hard grace and dense intention. Pianist Adam Benjamin is hand-in-glove with both the Sturms.

“Offertory: Stillness” finds Ike playing electric over Misty Ann’s vocalese. The integration of the band is near perfect, the ambiance light, the space cool and resonant. “Sanctus” is arranged in competing layers between voice, piano, and strings that modulate between a populated aural landscape and a spare solo field. McCaslin turns in one his best supporting performances onJazzMass. Sturm’s traditional spiritual vision mixes well with his bold and exploratory compositional vein. This is an excellent recording whatever the inspiration.

- C. Michael Bailey, All About Jazz 

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AuthorPhil Price