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Jazz is Mod: An Introduction to the Mod Jazz Series

Jakob Baekgaard By

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In England there is a solid tradition for crate digging and appreciation of American music. In fact, the whole idea of Northern Soul is based on the concept of English hipsters digging out rare soul gems in the sixties and giving them new life on the dance floor. However, the English mod scene, as it was called, did not limit itself to soul. Jazz was also on the radar of the young hipsters and they liked to dance to acid jazz, soulful struts, dripping blues, big band sounds and Latin beats. The many variations of a good jazz groove are showcased in a superb series from Kent Records: Mod Jazz.

Various Artists
Mod Jazz
Kent Records
1996

The series was initiated in 1996 when Ady Croasdell compiled the first volume simply called Mod Jazz, short for modern jazz. The cover sports a photograph of vibraphonist Cal Tjader whose Latin groove "Evil Ways" is included in the compilation. The 25 tracks span everything from Tjader's Latin beats to organist Brother Jack McDuff's big band version of "The Theme from The Pink Panther." The idea of using popular themes from movies and tv-series also resurfaces on another McDuff track, "Theme from The Carpetbaggers," where he once again is backed by Benny Golson's Big Band. Another organist, Johnny "Hammond" Smith, also explores material from the screen in his reading of "Theme from N.Y.P.D." that somehow manages to be both up-tempo and mellow and includes the cheesy effect of a police siren.

There are also vocal tracks like Jimmy Witherspoon's soulful blues track "Love Me Right" with gospel choir and brass and the swampy Hammond blues swinger "Money's Gettin' Cheaper." Another singer, Mark Murphy, flirts with Latin and strings on "Why Don't You Do Right," but there is also plenty of soul jazz as Croasdell takes a deep dive into the Prestige catalog, a label that was at the forefront of the Hammond groove aesthetic.

Various Artists
Mo' Mod Jazz
Kent Records
1998

Mod Jazz returned two years later with Mo' Mod Jazz and the opening is in grand style with saxophonist Johnny Griffin's hot big band version of the spiritual "Wade in the Water," a Mod Jazz classic. The movie theme lined out on the previous volume also continues with the conga chestnut "Theme from Mission Impossible" and singer Mark Murphy returns with an inspired interpretation of Horace Silver's "Senor Blues."

There are more soul jazz gems from the Prestige catalog. Freddie Roach delivers "Money (That's What I Want)" and Richard "Groove" Holmes contributes "Livin' Soul," but one of the best tracks in the soul jazz bag is a previously unissued version of "Soul Jam" by Booker T. & the MGs that shows that the legendary Memphis outfit could easily take their tight soul sound into jazz territory.

As a surprising twist, the compilation includes the pure shuffling acoustic blues of Lightnin' Hopkins' "Got To Move Your Baby," but there is also a successful fusion of Latin and soul when Pucho & His Latin Soul Brothers add restless Latin rhythms to "Georgia On My Mind." This time the compilation is even more eclectic and perhaps that's due to two additional chefs, Richard Early and Dean Rudland, who have helped compile the music. Once again, Rudland also contributes liner notes.

Various Artists
Even Mo' Mod Jazz
Kent Records
1999

Rudland is also onboard as a co-compiler with Ady Croasdell for the third volume in the Mod Jazz series: Even Mo' Mod Jazz. This time the sound is even bigger and moves metaphorically from the intimate cellar club to the scenes of Las Vegas. Established jazz names such as Count Basie, Woody Herman and Ella Fitzgerald all check in, but even experienced listeners might be fooled in a blindfold test. Basie turns up the funk on "Uptight (Everything's Alright)" with vocalist Jackie Wilson, and there is no Four Brothers sophistication on Woody Herman's "Hush" where the brass is so thick you can cut it in slices. Finally, who is the hoarse soul singer on "Get Ready"? The answer: Ella Fitzgerald! Surely, these tracks are curios, but also fun, that is if you can stomach some established jazz icons in a very unfamiliar setting.

There is a lot of boom, bang and glitter on the compilation, but fortunately, there's also a detour to the clubs and the intimate soul jazz sound of alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson, who takes it away on "Musty Rusty (Part 1)." Hits of the day like "Light My Fire" and "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" are covered by Erma Franklin and Karen Hernandez while easy listening crooner Andy Williams delivers a charming "House of Bamboo" that underlines his vocal prowess. A quirky contribution to a sprawling compilation.

Various Artists
Yet Mo' Mod Jazz
Kent Records
2000

Yet Mo' Mod Jazz is the title of the fourth volume in the Mod Jazz series, but it might as well have been titled The Mod Jazz Sound on Atlantic since it focuses solely on releases from Atlantic Records. Dean Rudland has left the ship, both as a compiler and writer, and instead Ady Croasdell is the sole compiler with Harboro Horace taking care of the notes.

While the focus is only on one label, the music is not less eclectic than the previous volumes. The Modern Jazz Quartet plays "A One Note Samba" while Tamiko Jonas and Herbie Mann cover trumpeter Lee Morgan's hit "The Sidewinder." Besides Mann, another flautist, Hubert Laws, plays "Bloodshot" and saxophonist Charles Lloyd is on the cover and on two tracks with his quartet. The singers include Esther Philips, Mose Allison, Mel Torme and, of course, Ray Charles, whose stirring soul music can be heard on two tracks: "Get on The Right Track Baby" and "Heartbreaker."

Various Artists
The Return of Mod Jazz
Kent Records
2005

After a substantial break lasting several years, Mod Jazz returned with another volume naturally titled The Return of Mod Jazz. Dean Rudland also returns both as a co-compiler and writer of liner notes and once again the team of Croasdell and Rudland dig up a fine selection of Mod Jazz. A regular like the cool singer Mose Allison returns with "I Love the Life I Live" and Pucho and His Latin Latin Brothers also show up again. This time their cover of Herbie Hancock's "Canteloupe Island" is not as eye-opening as their Latinized version of "Georgia on My Mind." Hancock's tune already has rhythmic bounce, but the group still does a fine job with the music.

Besides digging into the vaults of major companies like Columbia, taking in such artists as guitarist George Benson and singer Oscar Brown Jr., Croasdell and Rudland also find gems on little labels. One of the most ironic is "Get It" by a group called The Swingin' Tomatoes. The lyrics encourage the listener to buy the record, which would have been a bit difficult at the time since the tune is previously unreleased!

Various Artists
Further Adventures of Mod Jazz
Kent Records
2008

Impatient listeners only had to wait a few years for the follow-up: Further Adventures of Mod Jazz. The sound on the sixth volume in the series is as gritty as ever, starting out with the superb instrumental "The Point" from Mac Rebennack, who is more known playing under the moniker Dr John.

Jack McDuff contributes a true Mod Jazz classic, "Hot Barbecue" and there is also music from the vaults, including two instrumentals from Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm, but the most rewarding discovery is Michelle Harris-Spivey's cover of Joe Zawinul's "Walk Tall." It's a soulful song of empowerment that brims with strength in Harris-Spivey's delivery. There is also more Stax-related instrumental soul music. "Hung over" by the Martinis ends a record that is a hip party of Mod Jazz.

Various Artists
Mod Jazz Forever
Kent Records
2012

If the previous volume underlined the enduring strength of the series, the seventh entry, Mod Jazz Forever, is even better and this is right down to the details like the liner notes. In the beginning they set a Mod Jazz mood for the music with an introduction that is worth quoting verbatim:

"It's cold and crisp enough to require a dark blue woollen overcoat worn over your midnight blue, two button, narrow-lapelled, slim-fitting suit. Your loafers are oxblood and polished to a shine and you are looking for the perfect soundtrack for a night on the town. It can't be just any town, it needs to be a city, a bustling metropolis, lit by neon and full of a million souls, although you will only mingle with a select group. These are the people who share your tastes and understand your hunger for the right musical backdrop. Fortunately for you the Mod Jazz crew are back in town and we have scoured the globe -and behind the sofa -to provide you with the perfect blend of jazz plus a touch of the blues, a shake of soul and a pinch of Latin. Whether you are sipping a whisky sour in a wood-panelled bar, trying to create the perfect Mad Men moment, or working up a sweat, we have your number; the perfect musical number for your mood."

Indeed, this lofty promise turns out to be true and the album contains the strongest opening salvo in the series with rarities from Troy Dodds and Jesse Davis, swampy organ perfection from the Nightbeats and Ruben Wilson and sweet soul from Byrdie Green and Little Bob. This is timeless Mod Jazz.

Mod Jazz And Then Some!
Kent Records
2014

Volume 8 of the Mod Jazz series, Mod Jazz And Then Some!, continues the high level of quality. By now the Mod Jazz genres are familiar. For instance, there's a variety of sweet soul music: an up-tempo piece from Floyd White, bluesy soul with vibraphone from Clarence Daniels & Obie Jessie and jazzy instrumental punch from The Pac-Keys.

Organ combos also resurface. Shirley Scott, who began the party on the very first Mod Jazz volume, returns with a smoky reading of Horace Silver's hit "Sister Sadie" and Googie Rene & His Combo add a pinch of bossa nova to the organ stew on the appropriately titled "Bossa Baby" while conga drums are combined with the organ on "Congo Buggie."

The liner notes mention Dean Rudland digging into a batch of Prestige pressings and the label that was the main supplier of the tracks on the first volume delivers some of the cuts, including "Comin' Home Baby" by saxophonist Eric Kloss and "Nature Boy" by singer Etta Jones. In many ways, it feels like the series has come full circle with this volume.

Various Artists
Mod Jazz Rides Again
Kent Records
2018

For those fearing that Ady Croasdell and Dean Rudland were running out of musical stories to tell, the latest volume in the Mod Jazz story, Mod Jazz Rides Again, proves that there's still plenty of life left in the series. Here's everything from an unknown session band kicking it away with a juicy organ groove to one of Frank Sinatra's favorite singers, Jimmy Witherspoon, in a bluesy big band setting. Another star and Sinatra association, Sammy Davis Jr, delivers a gem with "I Know a Place" backed by the Buddy Rich Big Band.

Johnny "Hammond" Smith turns up again on this volume with "Sticks an' Stones," a perfectly relaxed organ piece with chiming vibraphone. Whether one is interested in relaxing with sophisticated dance music or taking it away on the dancefloor with jazzy grooves, the Mod Jazz series has what it takes, and the thorough liner notes add value to packages with good music and grooves.

Tracks and Personnel

Mod Jazz

Tracks: Soul Shoutin' -Shirley Scott with Stanley Turrentine; Collard Greens -Freddie McCoy; Tengo Tango -Cannonball Adderley Sextet; Why Don't You Do Right? -Mark Murphy; Money's Gettin' Cheaper -Jimmy Witherspoon; Step Out And Git It -The Nomos; Theme From The Carpetbaggers -Brother Jack McDuff with the Big Band of Benny Golson; N.Y.P.D. (Main Theme From The ABC TV Series) -Johnny "Hammond" Smith; Whip It On Me -Billy Hawks; Evil Ways -Cal Tjader; Yeh, Yeh! -Mongo Santamaria; Watermelon Man -Mongo Santamaria; The Seventh Son -Mose Allison; I'm Ready -Otis Spann; Pool Shark -Willis Jackson; Soul Shack -Sonny Stitt; Filthy McNasty -Eddie Jefferson; Love Me Right -Jimmy Witherspoon; I've Got Your Number -Pat Bowie; Black Talk -Charles Earland; Mama Rufus -The Merced Blue Notes; Soul Liberation -Rusty Bryant; Games -Boogaloo "Joe" Jones; Kenny's Theme -Kenny Burrell; Theme From The Pink Panther -Brother Jack McDuff with the Big Band of Benny Golson.

Personnel: Various artists.

Mo' Mod Jazz

Tracks: Wade In The Water -Johnny Griffin Orchestra; Mission Impossible -Johnny Gilliam; Money (That's What I Want) -Freddie Roach; Soul Jam -Booker T & The MGs; Got My Mojo Working (But It Just Won't Work On You) -Billy Hawks; (I Got A) Stomach Ache -Junior Wells; Got To Move Your Baby -Lightnin' Hopkins; Eyesight To The Blind -Mose Allison; Georgia On My Mind -Pucho & The Latin Soul Brothers; Get The Money -Mongo Santamaria Orchestra; Cholo -Brown Brothers Of Soul; Blue Vibes -Johnny Lytle Trio; Smokey Joe's La La -The Googie Rene Combo; Spider Man -Freddie McCoy; Livin' Soul -Richard Groove Holmes; Right On -Boogaloo Joe Jones; My Train -Merl Saunders; You Can't Sit Down -Chris Columbo; Bad Luck Soul -B.B. King; You Win, I Lose -Little Johnny Taylor; Brother Ray -Willis Jackson; Senor Blues -Mark Murphy.

Personnel: Various artists.

Even Mo' Mod Jazz

Tracks: Another Plan For School Mix Up -The Cals; Hush -Woody Herman; (Everything's Alright) -Jackie Wilson and Count Basie; Get Ready -Ella Fitzgerald; Hang On Sloopy— Count Basie; Honey Child -Bobby Bland; Ain't There Something That Money Can't Buy -Young-Holt; Musty Rusty -Lou Donaldson; My Back Scratcher -Frank Frost; Shimmy -Toussaint McCall; Light My Fire -Erma Franklin; Fever -Sharon Cash; I Heard It Through The Grapevine -Karen Hernandez; Secret Love -Billy Stewart; Unchain My Heart -Trini Lopez; Caesar's Pad— Googie Rene; House Of Bamboo -Andy Williams; Feeling Good -Jean Dushon; Psychedelic Sally -Eddie Jefferson; The Point (Part 1) -Aaron (Chico) Bailey & The Family Affair Band; The Point (Part 2) (Eclipse 5-24-75) -Aaron (Chico) Bailey And The Family Affair Band; I Got To See My Baby (Part 2) -Lee Jones And The Unforgotten Two; Ain't It A Groove -Dave Hamilton.

Personnel: Various Artists.

Yet Mo' Mod Jazz

Tracks: Memphis Soul Stew -King Curtis & The Kingpins; The Sidewinder -Tamiko Jones with Herbie Mann; Right Now -Mel Torme; Listen Here -Eddie Harris; Memphis Underground—Herbie Mann; Twist City -Johnny Griffin & Matthew Gee & Their Soul Groovers; Heartbreaker -Ray Charles; Wild Man On The Loose -Mose Allison; Burnin' Coal -Les McCann; Compared To What -Les McCann & Eddie Harris; Do It To Death -Jackie Ivory; Jet Set -Dave Pike; Love-In -The Charles Lloyd Quartet; Tres Lobos -Mark III Trio; Fever -Esther Phillips; You're The Boss -LaVern Baker & Jimmy Ricks; Get On The Right Track Baby -Ray Charles; Jam Up Twist -Tommy Ridgley; Watermelon Man Ska -Byron Lee & The Ska Kings; Sticks & Stones-Part I—Gene Ludwig; The Foolkiller -Mose Allison; Bloodshot -Hubert Laws; It's A Funky Thing-Right On Part 1 -Herbie Mann; Sombrero Sam -The Charles Lloyd Quartet; One Note Samba (Part 2) -The Modern Jazz Quartet with Laurindo Almeida; When A Man Loves A Woman -Eddie Harris.

Personnel: Various Artists.

The Return of Mod Jazz

Tracks: Sack O' Woe -Ray Bryant Combo; Sweet Lover No More -Gene McDaniels; Them Blues -Billie Poole with The Junior Mance Trio; Bell Bottoms -Joe Swift's Internationals; Hold It—Leo's Five; Have Some Boogaloo -Timmy Thomas; East Side -Hank Jacobs; Summertime -The George Benson Quartet; El Pussy Cat -Mongo Santamaria; Liberation -The Afro-Blues Quintet Plus One; Canteloupe Island -Pucho & His Latin Soul Brothers; Wild Bird -The Googie Rene Combo; Beaver -Clarence Armstrong; Twenty Five Miles -Bill Doggett; Banana Peels— The Johnny Otis Show, Ray's Theme -Leon Haywood; I Love The Life I Live -Mose Allison Trio; Monkey Sho' Can Talk -Red Holloway; Top Of The Pops -The Dave Davani Four; Get It -The Swingin' Tomatoes; Everytime Part 2 -Buddy McKnight; Getting Into Something -The TKOs; Humdrum Blues -Oscar Brown Jr; Hide Out -The Hideaways.

Personnel: Various Artists.

Further Adventures of Mod Jazz

Tracks: The Point -Mac Rebennack & the Soul Orchestra; Fredrick's Dream -Leo's Five; Hot Barbeque -Brother Jack McDuff; C.O.D. -Albert King; Tam-A-Rind -Hank Jacobs & the TKOs; Walk Tall -Michelle Harris-Spivey; All Around The World -Chuck Higgins; Daddy's Blues -Ike Turner's Kings Of Rhythm, Bash Dance -Bobby Donaldson; Sweet Bread -The Miles Grayson Trio; Listen To Louie -Richie & The PS 54 School Yard; La, La, La, La, La -The Afro-Blues Quintet; Senor Blues -Dee Clark; Motherless Child -Jerry Butler; Play It Cool -Billy Larkin & the Jivers; Whole Lotta Something -The Merced Blue Notes; Too Young -Dale Cunningham; Arabian Jerk (Instrumental) -The Merits; Cantaloupe Woman -George Braith; Soul Zone '65 -The Googie Rene Combo; Camel Walking -Ike Turner's Kings Of Rhythm; Take Your Shoes Off Part 1 -Booker T Averhart & the Mustangs; Crazy Lover -Richard Berry; Hung Over -The Martinis.

Personnel: Various Artists.

Mod Jazz Forever

Tracks: The Real Thing -Troy Dodds; Finders Keepers -Floyd White; Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf Pt 2 -The Nightbeats; Rod Run -The Reuben Wilson Quartet; Night Bloomin' Jasmin'—Jesse Davis; Return Of The Prodigal Son -Byrdie Green; Look Out Mr Heartaches -Little Bob; Talkin' About Love -Tobi Lark; D.H. Boogaloo -The Dave Hamilton Set; Screamin' -Jack McDuff; Because I Love You -The Dave Hamilton Voices; Looking -Billy Larkin & His Orchestra; Double Love -The Cals; Sunshine Superman -Bocking, Robinson, Morais; A Message To Regina -Hank Jacobs; Tricky Too -Gus Jenkins; Fever -Buddy Guy; John Henry -Bobby Jenkins & His Quartet, Work Song -Clint Stacy; My Beat -George Stone; The In Crowd -Johnny "Hammond" Smith; Burgher's Beat -John Hart With Lil' Bob & The Lollipops; The Village Caller -Johnny Lytle Trio; It's Like Love -Mark Murphy.

Personnel: Various Artists.

Mod Jazz And Then Some!

Tracks: Another Child Lost -Floyd White; Dig In -The Pac-Keys; Hard Working Girl -The Clarence Daniels Orchestra, vocal Obie Jessie; Bossa Baby -Googie Rene & His Combo; Hen House -Paul & Rick; Sister Sadie Part 1 -Shirley Scott; Saturday Night Stomp -Eddie "Blues Man" Kirkland; Leavin' Town -The Nightbeats; Free For All -King Curtis; The Fat Man -The TKO's; That's A Lie -Billy Larkin & His Orchestra; Watermelon Walk -The Five Counts; Congo Buggie -Freddy Washington's Band; Chili With Honey -Danny Bell & The Bell Hops; Poontwangie aka 3 O'Clock Stomp -B.B. King; Cooking In Grease -The Reuben Wilson Quartet; Troubles -Bobby Jenkins & His Quartet; Sorry 'Bout That -Chuck Higgins; Comin' Home Baby -Eric Kloss, In The Dark -Dave Hamilton; Bucket Full Of Soul -Trudy Pitts; Nature Boy -Etta Jones; You Were Wrong -The Miles Grayson Trio; El Tacos -Frenchy & The Chessmen.

Personnel: Various Artists.

Mod Jazz Rides Again

Tracks: Poppa Nickel -The Tempo Rhythms; Hey Mrs Jones -Jimmy Witherspoon; The Bold -Russell Evans & The Nite Hawks; Shanks & Grits -Ray Shanklin; Hot Tamale Man— Harold Betters; Sherry's Party -Ray Johnson; I Know A Place -Sammy Davis Jr & Buddy Rich; Sha-Bazz Pts I & II; Edit -The Rhoda Scott Trio, Fat Man -Montego Joe; Pluckin' -Jimmy Mayes & The Soul Breed; I'm A Dues Payin' Man -Otis Spann; Do The Thing -Gate Wesley; East 24th Avenue -Billy Graham & the Escalators; Come On Back Jack -Nina Simone; Sticks And Stones— Johnny "Hammond" Smith; Hi Heel Sneakers -Jackie Ivory Trio; Shake It Baby -T-Bone Walker; Spoonful -Playboy Five, Empire City -Gene Walker; I've Got My Walkin' Papers -The Clarence Daniels Orchestra, vocal: Obie Jessie; Pushin' The Button Of Soul -Hank Jacobs; Timber Pt II -Candy Phillips; Out House -Eddie Bridges & His Lowriders; What Is Love -Bobby Jenkins Quartet.

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