A candid expression of the pain and joy of spiritual conversion. This jazz-influenced musical setting includes two of Thomas Merton’s most treasured prayers, as well as original music and lyrics reflecting Sarah’s heartfelt journey to Catholicism.
Since its release in 2007, “Convert Augustine” has been featured on numerous radio programs, podcasts, and in newspapers, magazines, and blogs around the world. GromKo. is most honored to now have an entry in Enciclopedia Cecilia, a Catholic Spanish-language wiki.
Music from the album can be licensed for film and TV with Rescue Records, a branch of Universal Records.
The Victory Review
Review by Hilary Field
“The smooth and sophisticated jazz feel of this disc belies the very personal statement of love and faith that resonates throughout GromKo.’s debut release, Convert Augustine. Sarah Gromko is a vocalist and composer and the leader of the jazz fusion band GromKo. Except for two standards that bookend the CD, the music consists of GromKo originals. Sarah Gromko’s voice encompasses the range of a fine dramatic actress, in turn conversational, sultry, emotional, and angelic.”
The Muse’s Muse
Review by JJ Beiner
“…I can tell you this is good Jazz…One does not need to be Catholic to appreciate this CD. I’m not and I do. GromKo.’s Convert Augustine touches on universal themes and does so in musical and interesting manner.” (see the full review)
The Phantom Tollbooth
Review by Christopher MacIntosh
“…some brilliant jazz numbers which in time are bound to become not only standards but also classics… this album shows a deep sense of artistic maturity not often found the first time out.” (see the full review)
Florence Morning News
“Confessions of a Jazz Singer” by Nick Hilbourn
“Jazz is kind of like a lint roller. You could slide your roller along a nice pair of khakis and collect a healthy patch of fuzzy gray matter, which you then could unroll from said lint roller, spending anywhere from two minutes to two hours trying to get the hateful thing off your fingers before it finally floats, ever so gracefully, into the trash can, mocking you with every gentle sashay until it finally disappears into the waste basket.
Or you could slide your lint roller along a patch of leafy earth, against a palette of wetpaints, or just stick it out the window as you drive along the freeway.
Two ways to coat a lint roller.
Two ways, also, to play jazz — and they’re both perfectly acceptable, depending upon what you believe jazz is supposed to accomplish.
That being said, I confidently can state that GromKo. is like a lint roller that seems to have been stuck (respectfully), into the middle of a Big Band bistro, a neo-soul soup, a funk music gumbo and a cantoring church choir casserole.
GromKo.’s “Convert Augustine” is jazz, but it’s a step away from the more utilitarian
aspects of the style, embracing more of the personal, expressive side of the genre. More specifically, that means Sarah Gromko’s faith, and somewhat more discreetly, her background in television jingles.
Nearly each track is like a flip of the channels. The opening number is a cover of Cole Porter’s “What Is This Thing Called Love” with a heavy bass beat that could very well back Erykah Badu. “Scapegoat” is pure neo-jazz that features cameos from a hip-hop oriented beat at the beginning and a sudden reggae beat halfway through the song for about 30 seconds. Both songs sound the opening and the closing credits of a made-for-TV movie.
If not for Gromko’s smoky voice, “Say No” might be destined for K-Mart soundtracks across America, but her sultry bellow lends flesh to a slow and standard beat that, otherwise, would be a nice, soporific ballad.
“Larva” follows the same beat as “Say No,” but there’s a much more retro sound. Maybe it’s the clarinet at the beginning that just whistles sweetly, “Benny Goodman … Benny Goodman…” It’s nice nonetheless, and it’s a good song to play if you’re ever going for a walk downtown and want to feel like you’re in a Mac commercial.
“Are We There Yet” is supposed to be reminiscent of a car rumbling down the highway,
but it sounds more like the soundtrack to a Muppets music video, with the two voices whining at the beginning, “Are we there yet?” and the monotone scat section that follows. There’s parts where I wonder if GromKo. was channeling Jim Henson (or maybe Henson was channeling Gromko the entire time … the charlatan …)
“Season the Host” is one of the best songs on the album. It combines a lot of GromKo.’s influences into a track that is very balanced with jazz, R&B along with soul and a bit of angelic humming. Methinks that Mary J. Blige would include this fine ditty on her iPod.
“One With You” is GromKo.’s church cantor track that sounds similar to the a capella part on Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” It’s a wonderful track and it makes me wish Queen had done the entire song a capella.
GromKo.’s cover of Eden Ahbez’s “Nature Boy” is a wave of sound, rising from a low, steady percussion beat at the beginning with nothing but Gromko’s voice to a blast of jazz power with the undulating presence of hoo-ha funk guitar. (What is hoo-ha funk, you ask? Why, it’s funk that makes you go “HOO HA” when you hear it.)
Peppered throughout are Gromko’s musical interpretations of a prayer by Thomas Merton, which range from eerie to a capella and seem to tie the record together. They are something like a confession of faith and a confession of God’s power all made in God’s presence. When contrasted with the rest of the record, that really seems to be what she’s trying to convey, sort of like a church choir and a jazz band.
In conclusion, this record might be a little too jazzy for those not accustomed to the genre, but for jazzheads who like their lint rollers with a little bit of earth, color and wind, it’s worth a buy.
The Daily Gamecock, The Mix
“Group Finds Intimate Blend: GromKo. Showcases Eclectic Combo of Christian Jazz Music” by Gardner Beson
“…I haven’t heard something this intimate since Norah Jones, and before that, Patsy Cline. I was equally impressed by the skill of the musicians accompanying Sarah G. on her tracks. Their solos are nearly flawless…”
“With listed influences ranging from Brahms to Dream Theatre, you expect something pretty quirky, and GromKo. delivers, with a mix of jazz and folk pop. I loved the vocals, and the great accompaniment.”
“Certainly eclectic and will probably win over some new converts in this tasty Christian pop jazz.”
“Season the Host is a nice sophisticated piece of pop/rock…undeniably a killer song,
done by a pretty amazing talent.”