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Once you're a legend, it must be a legendary drag living up to your own reputation. After years of setting distinctive beats for King Curtis, Aretha Franklin, scores of Atlantic sessions and almost every acid-jazzer, drummer Bernard Purdie has a legendary reputation as the funk drummer. Trouble is the man earned his rep while he was young. Now, no matter how good his grooves get, they all have to measure up to his funky past.
Soul To Jazz II isn't much of a funk disc. But it's a successful soul-jazz exploration – which is exactly what it sets out to be – and something of an improvement over last year's Soul To Jazz.
The guests make Soul To Jazz II what it is. Check it out: Stanley Turrentine ("Motherless Child," "La Place Street"), Hank Crawford ("La Place Street," "Nobody Knows," "Joshua," "Mr. Magic" and "Amen") and Vincent Herring ("New Orleans Strut," "Jubilation" and "Shaft"). Plus, soul stalwart Junior Mance trades places with Benny Green in the piano chair; Atlantic sessioneer Cornell Dupree is on guitar, and former David Murray funk partner Stanley Banks is on electric bass.
Themes favor spirituals, from such traditionals as "Motherless Child," "Nobody Knows," "Amen" and "Joshua" to Mance's more contemporary "Jubilation." The soul tunes (Turrentine's "La Place Street," "Mr. Magic" and "Shaft") celebrate the powerhouse soul the sax leads generate.
The best bits are, of course, funky: Jack DeJohnette's "New Orleans Strut" and "Joshua" (which starts just like Grant Green's 1962 version and even has Crawford starting his solo the same way the guitarist did). But, annoyingly, there are times when the groove seems to drag so deliberately ("Mr. Magic," "Shaft"), you just want to kick these guys into gear somehow.
Reminiscent of the Bob Porter Milestone productions of the last ten years, Soul To Jazz II isn't as earth-shattering or hip-shaking as the premise promises. But the ultimate joy is hearing three soul sax giants (Hank Crawford especially) waxing eloquently in their own mighty soulful way.
Tracks:Motherless Child; New Orleans Strut; La Place Street; Nobody Knows; Jubilation; Joshua; Mr. Magic; Theme From "Shaft"; Amen.Collective
Collective Stanley Turrentine: tenor sax; Hank Crawford, Vincent Herring: alto sax; Howard Johnson: baritone sax; Jack Waltrath: trumpet; Junior Mance, Benny Green: piano; Cornell Dupree: guitar; George Naha: rhythm guitar; Stanley Banks: electric bass; Bernard Purdie, Jack DeJohnette: drums; Pancho Morales: congas; Benny Diggs Singers: vocals.
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.