Richard Smallwood has been a fixture atop the gospel charts for more than 15 years, and Persuaded only serves to polish his Midas touch.

Richard Smallwood has been a fixture atop the gospel charts for more than 15 years, and Persuaded only serves to polish his Midas touch. A classically trained pianist with an ear and appreciation for nearly every format of music imaginable, Smallwood has honed a singular style that defies comparison. With his 20-voice ensemble, Vision, in fine form, Smallwood stuns as he lays a classical veneer atop the gospel fervor of "Anthem of Praise." With a smooth, R&B/ballad texture, "Everything (Praise Waiteth)" is still rooted in Sunday-morning church. The slow, slam-dunk blues of "Calvary" is introduced by one of several full-blown classical preludes, all of which display Smallwood's dexterity at weaving together seemingly disparate musical genres into a seamless tapestry. This is easily the finest work yet from an artist reverential to tradition but fully willing to stretch its boundaries.—GE