Reviewed by Tony Cummings
Back in 2014 when Cross Rhythms interviewed Derrick 'Doc' Pearson, he was a man who'd already had two successful music careers - first in the mainstream, playing on Washington's go-go scene where he brought something new and fresh into funky club music and as a songwriter, penning a song or two for big acts like the Dells, and secondly as a highly rated and occasionally charting gospel man. Maybe Doc's not quite up there with the Kirk Franklins of this world but then without the big money recording and promotional budgets that getting into bed with the multi-nationals will bring you that kind of sales success isn't going to happen for any independent gospel artist, however talented they are. But now it seems this most gifted bass player, keys man and producer extraordinaire has for this album at least broadened his musical palate even further. So what's the genre? Well, if I call it smooth jazz you might immediately think of Kenny G and those other musicians who down the years have been able to reduce so much of the improvisational dexterity of jazz and turn it into formulaic muzak. And if I called it gospel jazz you might remember one of those albums that Christian labels occasionally released where indifferent musicians ran through jazz-tinged renditions of hymns and worship songs. So what label do I give 'A Family Man'? In truth, labelling it jazz is hugely difficult for music that refuses to stand still. When I first became a music journalist (in the '60s) it was a particularly exciting time for people like me who'd enjoyed all kinds of jazz (from Louis Armstrong to Stan Getz to Dave Brubeck) but had become enamoured with R&B/soul. Cynical critics were quick to suggest that musicians like Herbie Hancock and Grover Washington and all the other "crossover jazz" musicians I enjoyed were only integrating R&B rhythms into their music for "commercial" reasons. But I never went down that flawed line of aesthetic snobbery. All I knew was that jazz fused with R&B was at times exciting, at times relaxing and when played very well, music that you could dance to AND chill out to. Now, after many albums, Doc's love of R&B, his love of jazz, his love of God and his love of family have all come together to release this album. Where does family come in? In his own words, "One day, while listening to some of the instrumental music I had composed, the Spirit of the Lord spoke to my heart that there were many other family men that were just like me who also wanted to hear some instrumental music to inspire, motivate and relax them." It's certainly motivated me. As an occasional record executive I'm going to try and get an example of this funky jazz gospel synthesis (I said labels were difficult) onto a various artists project a friend and I have been working on for years. In the meantime, I would urge anyone, whether they're a dad with nine kids or an unmarried student, with a liking for instrumental music check this album out. It truly is inspired.
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