Best Gospel Artist - 2003
Should all the mid-'60s soul singles vanish from the planet, leaving you with only "Rescue Me," Fontella Bass' 1965 masterpiece, you could listen, learn and distill the genre anew. Why? Because the gospel sound, the DNA of soul music, is there. Daughter of gospel titan Martha Bass -- a member of the legendary Clara Ward Singers -- Bass has always sung holy music -- even when the subject matter was not especially churchly. Gospel is sound, not just message, for Bass, and though she continues to share her voice -- with its deep, enveloping tone and almost vertiginous range -- with the St. Louis church community, she has lit the gospel fire in places no one else has. Her singing with the Art Ensemble of Chicago (Bass was once married to the late Lester Bowie), free-jazz icon David Murray and even electronica tripsters the Cinematic Orchestra is as open-hearted and joyous as any sound this side of heaven.