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Blues In The Pocket & Blue Funk

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These two albums from Tower Records' "Exclusive CDs from Blue Note compilation series feature the kind of blues feeling that should not be overlooked by any generation. The music world has many creative artists who approach a performance as a daring feat that requires the technique of a wizard and a similar degree of stamina to back it up. They're sometimes the same ones who forget about true feelings.

Communicating with an audience requires the ability to remain genuine, while avoiding any kind of distraction. Going off on one's own, and the pushing the limits of performance through dazzling displays of technical prowess, by themselves won't do it. Neither will filling the room with raw and uncontrolled emotion. No, a balance is needed. Both emotional sincerity and technical finesse have to be present in every performance in order to communicate naturally with the audience—and it helps to have a groove going.

Various Artists

Blues In The Pocket

Blue Note

2006

From the late 1950s and 1960s, this program of instrumental gems reaches out and touches everyone. No matter your special taste in music, this one is bound to satisfy. It's a compilation of in the pocket interpretations which John Coltrane starts off with a swinging romp on "Blue Train. Donald Byrd and Sonny Rollins follow with a familiar arrangement of "Decision.

By in the pocket, we usually mean that everything just comes together seamlessly to touch our senses. It's no more obvious than on Byrd's "Slow Drag, which comes on real slow and sweeps all the cobwebs from your mind. With Sonny Red, Cedar Walton, Walter Booker and Billy Higgins, the trumpeter convinces soulfully. In a rare performance, from 1967, Higgins adds spoken word comments that accent the mood perfectly.

Several selections follow a twelve-bar blues form in order to communicate effectively. It sure works. On Horace Parlan's "Wadin,' Stanley Turrentine and Tommy Turrentine converse fluently in the blues language through their horns. Lou Donaldson puts a very slow "Hog Maw on the table for everyone to connect with intuitively. It's the kind of feeling that proves contagious. Similarly, Ike Quebec's "Easy-Don't Hurt transmits the same kind of message: slow and soulful.

Various Artists

Blue Funk

Blue Note

2006

My reliable Merriam-Webster dictionary defines funk as "music that combines traditional forms of black music (as blues, gospel, or soul), and is characterized by a strong backbeat. The words leave me cold. The music, of course, is much more than that. It warms the heart, jump-starts inactive brain cells, and ties one on that can last for days. When all the pieces fit, it serves as nature's own prescription for what ails ya.

Blues is music that we know by form or tonality. Like funk, you've got to feel it in order to know it. If the music reaches out to you and touches you, then you're in the ballpark.

From the mid-1960s, this compilation features five highly influential jazz leaders in memorable quartet and quintet performances. Grant Green and Big John Patton romp on "The Yodel with an extended share of improvised action. Similarly, Joe Henderson, Lee Morgan and Ronnie Matthews take "The Rumproller for an extended groove, both collectively and as creative soloists. Wayne Shorter's quartet gives "Adam's Apple a New Orleans shuffle that celebrates the city's rhythmic riches.

Hank Mobley's "The Turnaround features Freddie Hubbard, Barry Harris, Paul Chambers and Billy Higgins, with Mobley's tenor saxophone in a definitive funk interpretation. Instead of merely reminding us where to find two and four, Higgins' backbeats splash with the kind of rhythmic delight that ensures our celebration will last.

The other albums in this limited-release compilation series include the following titles: Great Jazz Tenor Saxophone, Blue Bossa Nova, Jazz Super Hits, Soul Party, Great Jazz Organ, Great Jazz Piano, Sanctified and Ultimate Cool. For more information on the series, click here.

Tracks and Personnel

Blues In The Pocket

Tracks: Blue Train; Decision; Wadin'; Hog Maw; Easy-Don't Hurt; Slow Drag.

Personnel: Sonny Red, Lou Donaldson: alto saxophone; John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Ike Quebec, Stanley Turrentine: tenor saxophone; Lee Morgan, Tommy Turrentine, Donald Byrd: trumpet; Curtis Fuller: trombone; Freddie Roach: organ; Herman Foster, Cedar Walton, Wynton Kelly, Horace Parlan, Kenny Drew: piano; Paul Chambers, Walter Booker, Milt Hinton, Gene Ramey, George Tucker, Peck Morrison: bass; Al Harewood, Philly Joe Jones, Jimmy Wormworth, Max Roach: drums; Billy Higgins: drums, vocal; Ray Barretto: conga drums.

Blue Funk

Tracks: Adam's Apple; The Rumproller; The Yodel; The Turnaround; Trouble No. 2.

Personnel: Stanley Turrentine, Hank Mobley, Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson: tenor saxophone; Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan: trumpet; Grant Green, Kenny Burrell: guitar; Shirley Scott, Big John Patton: organ; Herbie Hancock, Ronnie Matthews, Barry Harris: piano; Paul Chambers, Victor Sproles, Reggie Workman, Bob Cranshaw: bass; Otis Candy Finch, Joe Chambers, Billy Higgins, Hugh Walker: drums; Richard Landrum: conga drums.

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