Born: August 30, 1966 Primary Instrument: Saxophone
Harold Rayford is an anointed saxophonist who plays boldly for God and encourages souls in the process. This Stellar Award nominated musician, songwriter, married father of two and pastor of Faith Hope and Love Worship Center in Madison, Wisconsin, has returned after a ten year absence from the recording scene, the year of his 30th anniversary as a musician, with his best work yet, a Gospel Jazz double CD, Always There that celebrates God’s faithfulness and everlasting love.
God, church and gospel reigned supreme in the Rayford household laying the foundation for young Harold’s Gospel Jazz career and ministry. He remembers, “Growing up I listened to Gospel but I didn’t develop an appreciation of Jazz music until I was in high school. I also listened to a variety of artists, including Earth Wind and Fire, Parliament, the Barkays, Cameo, Aretha Franklin, James Cleveland and different Gospel artists of that day. Andrea Crouch was a huge Gospel influence on me! Once I got to high school I listened to Jazz artists such as Charlie Parker Cannon Ball Adderly, John Coltrane and Grover Washington, Jr. This was before the days of Smooth Jazz.”
While some instrumentalists in Gospel would rather lay claim to being an inspiring Jazz or Smooth Jazz artist, as opposed a Gospel Jazz artist in order to be more mainstream, Rayford proudly proclaims his allegiance to his beloved genre. “I view my playing as a service to God. It is a privilege and something that I owe to him. So my music has more of a Gospel flavor than a Jazz flavor.
Although he wasn’t recording over the last ten years, Rayford grew leaps and bounds as a pastor, moving from Associate Pastor in Ft. Worth to Pastor of Faith Hope and Love Worship Center in Madison, Wisconsin. He also ministered with his saxophone constantly. So when Tyscot asked him to return and record a new project, he was well prepared and his ministry was more powerful than ever. Evidence of that is found on his new release, Always There. It is a spiritually moving Gospel Jazz jewel.
Produced by Antoine Chambers, with songs written by both Chambers and Rayford, disc one features 11 new songs, while disc 2 is a set of 9 fan favorites handpicked by Rayford. Rayford says, “One of the unique things about this project is that there are no background vocals in the songs. We did some very familiar songs that are so familiar I don’t think they need vocals. Always There is a project that a person can listen to in any environment. You can play it at work, in your car, while you’re studying or just relaxing. Several of the songs are so familiar that everybody knows them. You’ll find yourself humming along and you become the background vocal.”
Harold Rayford put his heart, soul and thirty years of music ministry into Always There. He espouses, “I really hope this music to ministers to the hearts, minds and souls of everyone who listens to it. And I pray that it becomes a conduit or mood setter. So that whenever anyone needs to hear from God that they can put this CD on and just go to that private place…that secret place and commune with God. This is my prayer.”