Felton Offard - Rise

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By Peggy Oliver

Waldon Records

From the college classroom teaching the art of jazz and guitar to sharing the words of the Almighty. Rise by Felton Offard (Waldon Records) is the debut solo project from a veteran guitarist who has played with several influential jazz musicians including Louis BelsonMaynard Ferguson, and members of The Count Basie Orchestra, plus pop icon Barry Manilow.

The Chicago resident also leads the jazz unit, Lines & Spaces, which recorded the critically acclaimed Shades of Brown. His compositions have been featured on N.P.R. (National Public Radio), Chicago radio stations, and as co-writer for the Melvin Williams/Tracy Worth duet, I'll Follow You. Before joining the faculty of Chicago State University, Offard studied at Northern Illinois University. In keeping with his role as teacher, Offard has written a guitar instruction book.

The influences of George BensonGeorge Duke and George Clintonresonate on Rise. Offard also teams up with some participants from the gospel play, "Comfortable Shoes", where he played in the house band.

The Afro-Cuban percolator, Persuaded, is based on the scripture: "Nothing shall separate us from the love of God." (Romans 8:35). Near the end, the small vocal ensemble eases into a gospel-fueled mass choir.

Surrendering to the Lord becomes key in growing closer and comfortable. I'm Yours has few lyrics, but all that's necessary in communicating total humbleness: "If you want my love�, my time�, my life, it's Yours." Pianist/co-producer/co-arranger Ron Walters Jr. contributes a brief but pleasant solo, and a muted trumpet on the hook lends a gorgeous touch.

Clothed with updated soul, a la MusiqWhat Is This, arranged by Edwin Hawkins Jr., reveals how the Holy Spirit detours our human ways: "What is this that makes me do right when I do wrong." Christopher Neal Jackson's lead and harmonies invoke an up close and personal encounter, especially with: "When I'm down low, You give me a song." 

The title track points out the astounding ways that the Creator works: "You're wonderfully and beautifully made" (Psalm 139:13). He also made us to face challenges head-on: "Rise, rise, knowing life's not fair." Jackson's expressive vocals are highlighted once again.

Offard becomes the worship motivator forWon't Stop Worshipping. The testimony of Job who faced constant is cited: "Thou I be laid bare yet will I praise Him." A string orchestra, decorated with Jackson's solid backgrounds, accompany Offard's claim to keep praising: "till there's no more breath in my body".

More Like Jesus aims keeping our problems and impure thoughts at bay: "I wanna' do what's right and not what's in my mind." Offard's gingerly acoustic guitar follows suit after Jackson drops the concluding lyric: "hold me, shape me, direct me, play your melody."

Dance to your heart's content on Above My Head, while lending an ear to the these encompassing words: "Holy melody fall down on me."

An array of instrumental tracks complete the CD. Playtime explores the facet of Offard's skills. For most of the funky ride, he maintains a sweet aura. Then the amps are cranked up for a wah-wah filled finale. A Dream Of Lindsay, dubbed in honor of Walters Jr.'s son, Ronald Lindsay, creeps along until the 'dream' takes shape with galloping tempos and the background singer's triumphant crescendo. After Through Their Eyes, there's another special tribute for one of Offard's children, the samba-induced Alyssa. Reverting to the backbeat of Hi Records and Al Green, the blues rumbler, Mercy & Grace, couples Lennell Harris' howling vocal fills and Offard's guitar in overdrive.

Offard quotes Ecclesiates 9:10 on the CD liner credits: "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might." His nimble fingers are a blessing to the jazz and gospel community. Rise could have slipped into mundane pop/smooth jazz passages, yet Offard, along with Walters Jr.'s production and vocal arranging, mixes the musical pot from insightful worship to current R&B flavors to the throbbing blues exhibited on the last track. Co-vocal arranger Jackson, who also played Simba in the stage version of "The Lion King", dazzles whether in a head-nodding groove or a relaxed environment. 

Felton Offard composed most of Rise with occasional assistance from Walters Jr., whose keyboards and synthesizers mesh well with the guitar foundations. Rise has risen to another spiritual plateau, never taking its musical eyes off Jesus.

"This CD is FIRE."     -   Joi Mitchell, R.U.N.? Entertainment, Inc.

"Your boy is ridiculous..."     -   Gary Taylor, Singer/Songwriter

"Felton is the bomb of bombs. I have been listening to this CD for the past three days. This is a great CD."           - Rhoda Lawrence, VP Marketing, UMVD

"After I played I'm Yours, everyone rushed over to find out who it was. They loved the song. Great steppers song."    -    DJ Denn, NightLife Record Pool

Felton Offard is an incredibly gifted musician, and Rise is a wonderful project, one birthed in the tradition of music that speaks to and feeds the soul. In the title track, the symphonic resonance is simply heavenly, and the accompanying soul-stirring lyrics gracefully laced with the unforgettable unmistakable handiwork of a well-seasoned guitarist. His is a fresh uplifting sound that blends jazz, gospel, R&B, soul and even classical musical styles. This album is four cups musical sensation and four cups inspiration simply baked to perfection. It will move you and make you want to move.  

 - J Wesley Fountain, Medill Shool of Journalism, Northwestern University

This is a brilliant CD. It is sequenced perfectly and gives you a chance to enjoy yourself on a musical level and a spiritual level as it moves from smooth jazz to songs of worship. This CD is a blessing to all who listen to it. I love this CD especially the track Won't Stop Worshipping." 

-  Michael McAlister, WBGX-AM 

Rise does a phenomenal job of nailing the gospel and Christian segment as well as the smooth jazz segment. This CD stands on its own with no apologies. A lot of CDs leave you wanting more – like you are just having an appetizer. This CD is like a full course meal – you leave knowing you have just been fed.

-   Mark Knight, Manager, AccuGroove

This is Anointed Smooth Gospel Jazz at its best. Take some clean guitar playing, add some great lyrics, and then mix it with heartfelt vocals place them on a CD and you'll have my favorite disc. This CD is awesome. Once I heard Won't Stop Worshipping, I knew I would Rise and buy this disc.

- John L Terry

    John L. Terry
This is Anointed Smooth Gospel Jazz at its best
Take some clean guitar playing,add some great lyrics, and then mix it with heartfelt vocals place them on a CD and You'll Have my favorite disc. This CD is awesome. Once I heard Won't Stop Worshipping, I Knew I would Rise and by this disc.

    
Frank/The Spiritual Six of Macon, Ga.

"A professional Talent"
The gospel industry is very fortunate to have a talented young man who stays true to gospel music. Your gift is truly a gift from God. As with our group, your roots are within the COGIC. Bishop Patterson and the COGIC should be one of your biggest supporters. Keep up the good work. Your musical career is just beginning.

    
LJefferson

Good product and musicianship
I happened to find this CD during a search on CDBaby and I'm not disappointed. Mr. Offard body of work is good and if you are a fan of Jonathan Butler, Dwayne Smith, George Benson, you will enjoy this release immensely.

    
Jonathan

I really enjoy listening to this album!
This album is simply exceptional! The musical arrangements along with the living word was an awesome blend. I would encourage everyone to get a copy of this cd because I haven't ever heard anything this soulful and spritual at the same time!

    
Edmund Brown

Smooth comforting sound.
Felton creatively uses a smooth soothing jazz to deliver a powerful message. His guitar work is hypnotic and would surely calm Saul's madness. I'm on board for the full ride.

    
DJ Tony Tone(BKS)

BLESSED by GOD Himself!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Simply the BEST Gospel Jazz cd I have heard!!! Praise God!!!

    
Joi Mitchell, R.U.N.? Entertainment, Inc.

"This CD is FIRE."
This cd is Fire !

    
Gary Taylor, Singer/Songwriter

"Your boy is ridiculous..."
 

    
"Felton is the bomb of bombs. I have been listening to this CD f

Felton is the bomb of bombs. This is a great CD.
"Felton is the bomb of bombs. I have been listening to this CD for the past three days. This is a great CD."

    
DJ Denn, NightLife Record Pool

Great Stepping song !
After I played I'm Yours, everyone rushed over to find out who it was. They loved the song. Great steppers song.



Album Notes
Felton Offard is a gifted guitarist/composer/producer. He is a versatile artist who has worked with diverse acts, from pop star Barry Manilow to jazz legend Clark Terry. Mr. Offard co-wrote the song, "I'll Follow You", recorded by Grammy award winner Melvin Williams and Tracy Worth. His works have appeared on National Public Radio and the Australian documentary "Animal World" . Felton Offard wrote and produced seven of nine songs on the critically acclaimed jazz project by Lines and Spaces entitled "Shades of Brown". As a guitarist he has appeared all over the United States and Europe. 

Felton Offard also co-wrote the title track of American Idol George Huff's CD "Miracles". The video for the song Miracles was also included on the WOW Gospel 2007 DVD. 

Felton started playing drums at age seven and by fifteen switched to guitar. He played at the Faith Temple COGIC in his hometown, Freeport , IL. Mr. Offard earned a Masters Degree in Music and a Bachelor's of Music degree from Northern Illinois University. He teaches guitar at Chicago State University. Mr. Offard is the author of the guitar method book, "Back to Basics: A Comprehensive Method for Guitar". 

Theatre credits include Could It Be Magic? The Barry Manilow Songbook, Comfortable Shoes, Cooking at the Cookery (the Alberta Hunter Story), the Blues Brothers Revival and The Color Purple.


Reviews


 to write a review

    
Michael McAlister, WGBX-AM

This is a brilliant CD.
This is a brilliant CD. It is sequenced perfectly and gives you a chance to enjoy yourself on a musical level and a spiritual level as it moves from smooth jazz to songs of worship. This CD is a blessing to all who listen to it. I love this CD especially the track Won't Stop Worshipping

    
Mark Wright, Manager, Accugroove

This CD is like a full course meal – you leave knowing you have just been fed.
Rise does a phenomenal job of nailing the gospel and Christian segment as well as the smooth jazz segment. This CD stands on its own with no apologies. A lot of CDs leave you wanting more – like you are just having an appetizer. This CD is like a full course meal – you leave knowing you have just been fed.

    
J Wesley Fountain, Medill Shool of Journalism, Northwestern Univ

four cups musical sensation and four cups inspiration simply baked to perfection
"Felton Offard is an incredibly gifted musician, and Rise is a wonderful project, one birthed in the tradition of music that speaks to and feeds the soul. In the title track, the symphonic resonance is simply heavenly, and the accompanying soul-stirring lyrics gracefully laced with the unforgettable unmistakeable handiwork of a well-seasoned guitarist. His is a fresh uplifting sound that blends jazz, gospel, R&B, sould and even clasical musical styles. This album is four cups musical sensation and four cups inspiration simply baked to perfection. It will move you and make you want to move.

    
Marquita Hobson

Current gospel speaking across the generations...
The uplifting of the soul is not limited to convention nor tradition. With his personal blend of deep rooted gospel and a mastery of contemporary jazz and blues influence Offard has stuck a chord/cord with the tewnty-something audience and their 80 something and 90 something grandparents. The cd is current gospel that is soothing to the soul and offers the listner a sense of peace with reverant and easy listening harmony. Job well done!


Felton's Tracks