Song of the Day: Koinonia - Frontline

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Alright, you’re gonna need to buckle up for this one. For two reasons: 1) Koinonia has a somewhat lengthy history, and the band’s members are/were probably more connected than any other band ever in contemporary Christian music; and 2) they were a jazz fusion band, which is probably not a genre most IVM readers are astutely familiar with.

The band formed in 1980 and were active throughout that decade before disbanding in 1991. While the members were Americans, several of whom were of Latin/Hispanic descent, their music was more widely-known in Northern and Western Europe where they often played to sold out crowds. They were one of the first expressly Christian bands in the jazz circuit, though they were also largely an instrumental ensemble. The name “koinonia” itself is a biblical word meaning “fellowship” in New Testament Greek.

Members have included:

–bassist Abraham Laboriel (perhaps best known for his work with film composer Henry Mancini, but also for literally hundreds of others–his Discogs credits number over 1,200!)
–drummer/percussionist Alex Acuña (of mainstream jazz fusion heavyweights Weather Report, as well as working with Elvis Presley, Diana Ross, Paul McCartney, Joni Mitchell, Ella Fitzgerald, Chick Corea, Whitney Houston, Placido Domingo, Herbie Hancock, Carlos Santana, Beck, Roberta Flack, Al Jarreau, and a host of others)
–woodwind player John Phillips (Patti Labelle, Bob Bennett, Honeytree, others)
–guitarist Dean Parks (The Beach Boys, Sonny and Cher, David Cassidy, Art Garfunkel, and about 1,800 others–no lie!)
–drummer/percussionist Bill Maxwell (Andraé Crouch, Chuck Girard, Alpha Band, Candle, and a few hundred others)
–guitarist Hadley Hockensmith (Andraé Crouch, Sherman Andrus, Paul Clark, Fletch Wiley, hundreds more)
–keyboardist Harlan Rogers (Andraé Crouch, Sherman Andrus, Mike Johnson, Candle, hundreds more)
–flautist/saxophonist Justo Almario (Fela Kuti, The Wigans, Don Francisco, Graham Kendrick, Ron Kenoly, etc.)
–keyboardist/vocalist Lou Pardini (Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, Kenny G, Julio Iglesias, etc.)

While it would be next to impossible to name all of their contributions and associations, this snapshot should help you understand the caliber of musicianship we are talking about here.

Now, I get it. This isn’t exactly ‘indie’ street cred. Nonetheless, jazz is an important genre in understanding independently-minded music. No, it doesn’t have any obvious connection to punk or metal, but jazz isn’t mainstream either. The only people who play jazz or get into it as a genre do so out of love for the music. To prove my point, I’m actually going to give a live rendition for today’s SOTD feature. “Frontline” may be one of the band’s most famous songs, but watching them perform it live is something special. I dare even the most jaded punk rocker not to at least admire the musicality on display from this live set in Germany in 1986 for the television show, Ohne Filter.

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