Sacred jazz

Bruce Von Stiers

Nine years ago I reviewed the album Brother Ray, a tribute to Ray Charles. The album was from The Eric Byrd Trio. I really liked the album, noting that it caught the true spirit of Ray Charles.

Many years and albums later, The Eric Byrd Trio has once again put forth a terrific themed album. This album is spiritual in nature. The title of the album is Sacred Music Vol. 1: Saints Are Still Marching. This is the eighth recording that the trio has done together.

The members of The Eric Byrd Trio are Alphonso Young, Jr., Bhagwan Khalsa and Eric Byrd. Alphonso is the drummer and Bhagwan is on bass. Besides being the band leader, Eric plays the piano for the trio. On this album, Eric also provides vocals on a few songs.

Individually and collectively, the members of the trio have played and recorded with some of the top names in jazz.

The trio had two special guest performing on the album with them. Tim Warfield is a saxophonist who has played with Dizzy Gillespie, Isaac Hayes and Billy Paul. He has also performed with trumpeter Terrell Stafford. And Terrell Stafford is the other special guest on the album. His credits are far too numerous to list here.

The album has nine songs and a play time of forty-six minutes.

I wasn't familiar with the first song on the album, Ain-A That Good News. I listened to the song then found a couple of choir sung versions on YouTube. The instrumental version on the album is somewhat different. It has a fuller, jazz fused tone to it here. There is some great sax by Tim Warfield and trumpet by Terrell Stafford.

There's A Sweet, Sweet Spirit is a song I have sung often in church service. But I have never heard it done strictly as an instrumental. The trio gives this Doris Akers song a light, breezy jazz tone.

When The Saints Coming Marching In is a great song. I have heard it done a lot over the years, by a whole range of musicians and vocalists. There are some more aggressive portions of the trio's rendition but, overall there is a subtle jazz effect. There is fantastic piano and bass, along with great drum music.

I couldn't help but tap my feet to the sound of Joshua Fit The Battle of Jericho. It has some cool sax and trumpet.

Soft and gentle sax can be found There's Something About That Name. That is followed by great piano and trumpet. The trumpet gives off a pretty cool jazz feel at different points in the song.

Things kick it up a notch with an R & B flavoring of I Want Jesus To Walk With Me. Eric has some tough vocals and the song has a cool vibe.

Eric does the vocals on a second song. This one is a soft and gentle rendition of the classic Negro Spiritual song Calvary.

Blessed Assurance is sung a lot in worship services. I hadn't heard a strictly instrumental version of the song until this album. The trio does a very nice job with their version, with a lot of piano and bass.

The last song on the album is Just A Closer Walk With Thee. It begins in a sort of old school Delta blues style with a lot of piano. Then things move into a faster pace with great vocals by Eric.

The pairing of jazz and spiritual music sometimes fares well and sometimes not. This album is one of the times where the pairing fares well. Very well in fact. I thoroughly enjoyed the album, especially the songs that featured Terrell Stafford and Tim Warfield. I liked the fact that Eric has a pretty decent voice and complemented the music on the songs he sung on.

If you like spiritual music and good jazz then the mixture of both on this album might just be worth checking out.

Sacred Music Vol. 1: Saints Are Still Marching is out now and can be found at most music outlets.

Check out the trio's web site at The trio also has a Facebook band page at

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© 2017 Bruce E Von Stiers