In addition to all of the above, Alvarez also spent considerable time with longtime friend/music biz legend Steve Popovich (The Jacksons, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Meat Loaf) at CBS Records, starting out as a session bass player, then writing for other artists (including the iconic “Somewhere In My Lifetime,” originally cut by country icon Charlie Rich and later a landmark for R&B sultan Phyllis Hyman). Further credits included producing The Moments (the “Love On A Two-Way Street” singers who later became Ray, Goodman & Brown) and Brook Benton (“Rainy Night In Georgia”), along with singing for a latter day incarnation of doo-wop icons The Duprees (to name but a handful of hats) prior to his inevitable ascent in gospel avenues.
“After coming out of the secular field, I signed a really good deal with Light Records in the early ‘80s and Andraé Crouch collaborator Bill Cole was my producer on Just Give Me Jesus,” Alvarez explains of the natural progression that also included extensive touring with evangelists R.W. Schambach and Nicky Cruz. “I got really turned on to the things of God, so much so that I eventually decided to quit music to preach the gospel and start churches.”
As unlikely as that jump might seem for a man who lived out the decadence of disco then contemplated leaving this planet, further revelations from Alvarez’s even more extraordinary childhood suggest the seeds of ministry were actually sewn long ago. Cinematic story short, Jason’s parents and uncle protested against Fidel Castro’s increasing control over Cuba, which was a jarring episode that resulted in an 18 year prison term for his uncle who was captured and a warrant for his folks who escaped.
“They came after us in Havana and we ran to Cienfuegos where we lived in a monastery for almost two years and I even became an altar boy,” he recollects of the harrowing time. “One day I was walking down the island- and I’ll never forget this as long as I live- but a nun came and grabbed me and said ‘the authorities are at the door looking for your father.’ They led us out a secret passageway and out we went- me with my father and my mother on her own- back to Havana.”
Though safety was still a concern and everyone stayed on guard, the respite from imminent danger allowed the family to resume a relatively normal life. In fact, Alvarez vividly remembers being in a movie theatre one day when he heard the voice of God specifically asking for whatever prayers were on the young boy’s heart. One of those wishes was a simple ‘I want to go to America,’ and exactly three weeks later, a visa came in the mail from a long lost family friend who moved to America. Considering he never said goodbye in the first place, it was clearly a direct answer to prayer and one of the many morsels that would manifest itself many years later throughout Time For Miracles.
After being completely strip searched at the Miami border, the family and their regained freedom ultimately migrated to Newark, New Jersey, which explains Alvarez’s later connection to planting so many parishes on the east coast (like his current leadership of Jersey’s The Love of Jesus Family Church, who also offer missions support as vast as India, Central Africa, France, the Philippines, Guatemala and Cuba). And since officially being ordained on February 20, 1982, he estimates at least 100 ministries have been birthed out of those congregations, including most recently, a re-ignition of his very own musical muse (on the heels of more than 70 projects recorded at the congregation’s state of the art studios).
“About three years ago, I was in my kitchen on Christmas day preparing for some friends and relativities to come over, but I was having a hard time really embracing some music I could put on as far as worship for myself while I was just doing some simple cooking,” he shares. “God never called me to be perfect, but he called me to be perfectly honest so I said ‘you know Lord, I wish there was some music I could put on right now that could get me into the spirit of worship,’ and at that moment, he said ‘you do it.’ I had just turned 60 and basically heard God speak to me and say ‘your final chapter has not yet been written.’ So I decided to take Him at His word and did a little album called Intimacy Between Two: Just You And God, which was a combination of other people’s songs and originals. And then last year during a Sunday night service, inspiration came to me again and that started the ball rolling on the sessions that have now become Time For Miracles.”
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