At the height of the soul jazz movement heavy hitter independent labels like Prestige and Blue Note were scrambling to cash in on the craze. Turned out in cookie cutter batches organ combo records only the relative skills and tastes of the musicians to differentiate them. The inevitable critical backlash that ensued swindled Soul Jazz out of its potential reputation as a true art form. Hindsight has leavened some of the stigma, but there are still many listeners who balk at the idea that groove-driven music deserves a serious place in the jazz canon. Even so soul jazz (and the B-3 sound that spawned it) is still a popular idiom. The high profile careers of groups like Soulive and Medeski, Martin and Wood and the wealth of reissued albums from the 1960s and 70s offer easily accessible evidence. This recent collection curated by Label M guru Joel Dorn is a beautiful cross-section of those kinds of classic dates.
What better way to start off a first rate groove feast than with the iron chef of soulful soufflés himself Brother Jug in close collusion with his most famous foil Sonny Stitt. The two tenors hit the ground running on the call and response changes of “You Talk That Talk” though there’s a strange echo that clings doggedly to Stitt’s lines. Fellow Chicagoan George Freeman takes a concise solo and the tune dutifully disperses. Husband and wife team Turrentine and Scott ring in next with a well-roasted chestnut from their seminal Blue Note summit Never Let Me Go. Major Holley’s supple upright handles the bass line freeing up Ms. Scott to fill in with chain of greasy flourishes. Later disc highlights include Quebec’s “Easy- Don’t Hurt” a lush vamp driven burner equipped with a title that doesn’t mince words and the concluding organ jam to end all jams Grant Green’s quarter hour “Blues In Maude’s Flat.”
Joel Dorn’s successful ploy to plunder both Prestige and Blue Note vaults for this selection of cuts virtually guarantees the caliber of grooves on hand. Cherry picked and hand sequenced there isn’t a single one that disappoints. Anemic organ comps may abound, but this one has some real meat on the bones and is perfect for freeway listening with the windows rolled down and the speakers cranked up.
I was first exposed to jazz as a child in Boston and at a Sun Ra concert.
I met Jaco Pastorius as a teenager in NYC.
The best show I ever attended was The Gap Band.
The first jazz record I bought was Heavy Weather.