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Press & Reviews - Pondering the Sushi CD

2001 Pondering CD review by SmoothChristianJazz.com

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Stockton PictureNorm Stockton is a widely acclaimed expert bassist who has spent the greater part of Stocktones Music his career as an instructor, composer, and performer. He travels extensively throughout North America mainly with Maranatha! Music's highly successful Worship Leader Workshop conferences as bass clinician. In addition, Norm works and travels extensively as a free lance bassist and has recorded with well known artists such as jazz musicians: Steve Laury, Rob Mullins, and Scott Wilkie; as well as singers Billy Batstone and Darrell Mansfield. Add to this the fact that he's performed the National Anthem (bass solo!) at large sporting events, has been featured in Bass Player Magazine, and is a columnist himself in Christian Musician Magazine.

From hearing of just few of the accolades Norm has received and some of the work that he has done.. one would definitely surmise that he is a pretty special bass player. However, to look into all he's done in terms of the musicians he's mentored over the years; the many workshops and conferences he's been a part of; the caliber of musicians he himself has worked with; and especially his love and dedication to the Lord.. is to see exactly how special he is.

Stockton PictureAfter much seasoning, Norm has released his debut CD for 2001 entitled, "Pondering the Sushi". Now I must admit (although I'm not proud of this *smile*) that when brother Norm first told me about his CD.. I wondered to myself, "what does pondering about sushi have to do with Christian Jazz?"

I laugh heartily at myself now after experiencing this brand new project from Norm's Stocktones Music label. Not only are the songs spiritual in nature but the very title and theme of this work have a deep meaning which seeks to glorify God and perhaps cause a non-believer in God to think twice.

If I may quote an excerpt here before beginning with the review:

"As I peruse a piece of sushi (a favorite pastime, being Japanese), I marvel at the intricate design and artistic beauty. If someone was to assert that those various ingredients came together in that ornate configuration entirely on their own, with no involvement of a sushi chef, it would seem absurd. There's simply to much evidence of it being a carefully considered and expertly executed design.

Yet popular culture and thinking make essentially the same assertion about something as intricate and incredibly complex as, for example, the human eye.."

Very interesting observation indeed. We take great pleasure in starting up the old laser beam to ponder the sushi with Norm!

Stockton PictureTrack 1, "The Race" gets out of the starting blocksNorm with MTD 735 powerfully with a mean fill from drummer Rod Lincoln. Rod keeps the beat chest thumpingly strong while Scott Wilkie brings in the keys and Larry Williams warms up his trumpet. Norm then plugs up and gets a smooth Marcus Milleresque bassline going for us as the artists combine for a tune capable of receiving airplay on any current smooth jazz radio station. This even with it's Paul like theme of running life's race (1 Corinthians 9:24, Hebrews 12:1). Scott Wilkie and guitarist Steve Laury play off of each other beautifully during this track.

Next is the title track, which strikes me as one of the deepest grooves I've heard in a very long time. Leave it to a bassist to write a monster like this! Norm achieves in the middle of the song a deep, watery wah-wah with his fretless that I've never heard before! Perhaps this is a register on his amp.. to be honest I'm not quite sure.. all I know is that it had me doin' backflips!! Making a special guest appearance on this cut is Mom; Tomoko Stockton, playing a haunting fill with a traditional Japanese Koto. Kamau Kenyatta also does a fantastic job on keys and piano; Kevin Rogers leads us through seamlessly with his guitarwork.

Stockton PictureOkay, okay.. this review has gotten quite long (and we've only covered two songs so far!). Suffice it to say that this is a wonderful and anointed project. Indeed, this is a spectacular way to start a solo recording career in addition to Norm's traveling and teaching (check out Norm's site to explore his "Grooving for Heaven" instructional video series).

Though every single track is sweet food for the ear; worth mentioning are other favorites such as the beautiful, "I'll Return for You".. putting to song the expectation of Jesus' promise to return; also the high spirited "14:12", an uptempo yet mellow smooth jazz track based on Proverbs 14:12; the spicy "7 Pearls of Monterrey" (you've got to hear the horn section!); and track after track of superb music from start to finish!

If you aren't convinced by now then just order Pondering the Sushi anyway.. you will be!

Michael C.

This page reproduced by the kind permission of SmoothChristianJazz.com.


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