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Rayford, Harold

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Harold Rayford is an anointed saxophonist who plays boldly for God and uplifts souls with his gifted artistry. 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 with his best work yet, Always There, his musical expression of God’s faithfulness and everlasting love.  The youngest of five children, he was born in Ft. Worth, Texas and raised in a Christian household where Gospel music was heard daily.  God, church and Gospel music reigned supreme in the Rayford household, laying the foundation for young Harold’s Gospel Jazz career and ministry. Two of his older siblings played musical instruments, however Harold was the only Rayford child who developed a passion for music and later on had a calling on his life to be a musician for God.  Rayford’s union with the saxophone came in the sixth grade when he joined the school band and chose the saxophone over the trumpet.  After he picked out his shiny new saxophone, he carried it to church the next day and sat proudly with the musicians, even though he could barely play a note and didn’t have a clue as to how to put it together.  He continued to grow as a musician, playing in the school band and at church, however, he didn’t really connect with the saxophone and play with the passion and fervor he is known for today until he was a teenager.  He says, “Music was just something I did casually for the first three years I played the saxophone.  I really loved playing football and was pretty talented.  I thought I was going to be a football star.  So by the time I reached the eighth grade I had made up my mind that I was going to stop playing the saxophone and devote myself totally to football and track.  But as fate would have it, I broke my leg playing football, ending that dream. That injury was God’s way of redirecting me back to where he wanted me to be, music.  And from then on, I took music seriously.”  Influenced by a cross section of musical styles he says, “Growing up I listened to a lot of Gospel but I didn’t develop an appreciation for Jazz until I was in high school.  I listened to Gospel, Jazz and R&B artists, including Earth Wind and Fire, Parliament, the Barkays, Cameo, Aretha Franklin, James Cleveland and Andrae Crouch, who was a huge influence on me.  In high school I started to appreciate Jazz and Jazz artists, like Charlie Parker, Cannon Ball Adderley, John Coltrane and Grover Washington, Jr. Now this was before the days of what we now call Smooth Jazz.  Rayford honed is skills and talent playing in the church.  He combined his love of Jazz with Gospel and developed his own unique and anointed Gospel Jazz sound.  He testifies, “For me, playing music is a way that I praise God.  When I play, it’s an offering from me to God.  Some people dance and give him praise.  I play the saxophone!”  What sets him apart from other Gospel Jazz artists? Rayford says, “Many times when you listen to Gospel Jazz artists, they kind of lean towards Jazz but my style leans more towards Gospel.  My music is a praise unto God.  So when I go into a recording studio or approach a song, it’s as though I’m playing it directly to God. And I only play songs that minister to me.  If it doesn’t inspire me, I won’t play it.  If it doesn’t encourage me, I won’t record it because if it doesn’t minister to me, it certainly won’t inspire others.  It is important that I please God with my music. That’s the most important thing to me when I approach a song. Therefore, my music is unquestionably Gospel Jazz.

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