Jazz Related RnB

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The line between jazz and RnB is often blurry. Both styles of music come from the same sources and both influence each other as they constantly cross paths. The Jazz Related RnB genre at JMA pays tribute to RnB bands that are not jazz bands in name only. For example, the early to mid-70s version of Earth Wind and Fire caught the attention of many jazz and fusion fans with their virtuoso horn charts, poly-rhythmic foundation and extended harmonies over modern jazz chord changes. Many of the RnB artists listed in this genre had a strong impact on the development of jazz.

jazz related rnb top albums

Showing only albums and live's | Based on members ratings & JMA custom algorithm | 60 min. caching

STEVIE WONDER Innervisions Album Cover Innervisions
STEVIE WONDER
4.73 | 13 ratings
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STEELY DAN Aja Album Cover Aja
STEELY DAN
4.65 | 23 ratings
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STEELY DAN Countdown to Ecstasy Album Cover Countdown to Ecstasy
STEELY DAN
4.62 | 17 ratings
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EARTH WIND & FIRE Gratitude Album Cover Gratitude
EARTH WIND & FIRE
4.93 | 4 ratings
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EARTH WIND & FIRE All 'n' All Album Cover All 'n' All
EARTH WIND & FIRE
4.67 | 7 ratings
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STEVIE WONDER Talking Book Album Cover Talking Book
STEVIE WONDER
4.59 | 10 ratings
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BOOKER T & THE MGS Green Onions (aka Booker T & The MG's) Album Cover Green Onions (aka Booker T & The MG's)
BOOKER T & THE MGS
4.85 | 4 ratings
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ISAAC HAYES Hot Buttered Soul Album Cover Hot Buttered Soul
ISAAC HAYES
4.64 | 7 ratings
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STEVIE WONDER Fulfillingness' First Finale Album Cover Fulfillingness' First Finale
STEVIE WONDER
4.58 | 8 ratings
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CURTIS MAYFIELD Curtis/Live! Album Cover Curtis/Live!
CURTIS MAYFIELD
4.89 | 3 ratings
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STEVIE WONDER Songs in the Key of Life Album Cover Songs in the Key of Life
STEVIE WONDER
4.46 | 10 ratings
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GABOR SZABO High Contrast Album Cover High Contrast
GABOR SZABO
4.38 | 4 ratings
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This list is in progress since the site is new. We invite all logged in members to use the "quick rating" widget (stars bellow album covers) or post full reviews to increase the weight of your rating in the global average value (see FAQ for more details). Enjoy JMA!

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jazz related rnb Music Reviews

EARTH WIND & FIRE That's the Way of the World

Album · 1975 · Jazz Related RnB
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js
Although as the 80s dragged on, they eventually became a talented, yet sometimes bland pop group, this was not how Earth Wind and Fire started. Many would be surprised to know that the roots of this group go back to Chicago’s avant-garde AACM, and their first album was the soundtrack to the outsider classic, “Sweet Sweetback’s Badass Song”, on which EW&F played furious psychedelic fusion in the style of Herbie’s Sextet. After this rather obscure beginning, founder Maurice White decided to keep the creativity intact, but also aim for some radio play too. With all this in mind, EW&F grew to be a powerhouse in the world of RnB, fusion, rock and pop during the 70s, and many would agree that they hit their first major peak with the 1975 studio masterpiece, “That’s the Way of the World”.

In the mid 70s, no other RnB or rock band carried as much pure talent as EW&F, their horn section could outplay many jazzers, their rhythm section could hold their own against WAR, Santanna or Weather Report, vocally they took arrangements to new heights in harmony and range, and finally, their compositions were modern, complex and way ahead of the field. Throughout the 70s, EW&F’s compositional approach was more influential on fusion artists than most other jazz artists. All through “That’s the Way”, EW&F tops driving syncopated African rhythms with floating abstract harmonies that recall Ellington and Debussy.

Almost every song on here is a classic, with only one sore thumb, the rather cliché ballad, “All About Love”. Modernist ballads with soaring harmonies were EW&F’s trademark, so its hard to understand how this less than stellar cut made the grade, but its all made up when it is followed by a short and attractively bizarre synth instrumental. For fans who already like this album, you need to check out the album “Gratitude”, on which the band plays these songs live and takes their mix of Ellington, Beatles, Stevie Wonder and Ohio Players, to new levels. As mentioned earlier, as the 80s dragged into the 90s and beyond, EW&F, much like their musical compadres Chicago and Genesis, became more wind and earth, and much less fire.

MAGMA Merci

Album · 1984 · Jazz Related RnB
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siLLy puPPy
Wow! Is this MAGMA or Earth, Wind & Fire? Christian Vander, are you there somewhere?!! Did the Kobaians beam you all back up to your planet? Or did they implant those dreaded disco soul chips in you again. What can we think of the most hated album in the MAGMA discography. After the excellent run of originality and channeling of otherworldly forces that lasted from their debut in 1970 to “Üdü Wüdü’ in 1976, it seems even advanced technology could not help the Kobaians hold back the backlash that dethroned progressive leaning music of the early 70s. While some bands like King Crimson were wise enough to call it a day before the great shift, others who stuck around found themselves watering down their output album by album, whittling away their loyal fan bases and becoming shallow caricatures of their innovative glory years.

Even the Kobains succumbed to these pressures as heard on the watered down “Attahk” in 1978, add to that the financial pressures of operating such a huge number of musicians on board with an ever chaining cast of members and it’s really not hard to imagine the temptation to dummy down the innovations and go for the gold in the highly profitable pop music world of the 80s. Perhaps a good idea at the time but considering this is a whole different band of musicians on board (at least 25!), Vander could have had the decency to at least release this under a different moniker that wouldn’t tarnish the image of one of the 70s’ most unique forces in the prog world. After six years of inactivity the album was a hodgepodge of tracks recorded throughout the early 80s and at this point Vander was bored with the whole MAGMA thing anyway and after the release of MERCI would suspend activities with the band and focus on his jazz-fusion oriented Offering albums.

“Call From The Dark” begins the album and after a few tinkles of some strings and immediately begins what sounds like something you would hear on a disco soul album around 1979 leaving a first time listener accustomed to all the zeuhlisciousness of previous MAGMA offerings totally bewildered and just a few notes away from pumping out “Boogie Wonderland.” While the music itself is perfectly decent for that type of sound, complete with beautiful vocals, a horn section to die for and a nice booty shakin’ rhythmic section, it’s like whoa!!! Is this MAGMA? WTF?

The second track “Otis” is less danceable and at least has a faint trace of the vocal trade offs of Vander and female vocalists from the past, but this song is particularly weak although perhaps acceptable for aging Kobaians in nursing homes or doctor’s offices. Vander’s screams in the middle sound like a mating cat and totally out of step with this mellow repetitive soul music. “Do The Music” is a rather strange little track as it sounds like zeuhl is battling it out with disco leaving the listener with no clear winner but admittedly a unique experiment that does make me think of going to the disco on Kobaia! I mean, they need to get a little light now and again too! “Otis (ending)” is a gospel sounding organ track with Vander screeching. Hmmm. No comment.

The one long track on here “Eliphas Levi” is the anomaly. It actually feels more like the zeuhl music we were expecting albeit more serene, pacified and stripped down in both instrumentation and feel. It does however have those ratcheting vocal deliveries that build in repetition accompanied by piano and percussion. This one is actually pretty enjoyable although very much on simmer as opposed to the full intense pyroclastic flow MAGMA usually delivers as the track drags on for over eleven minutes and feels like it never gets up to expected speed. The vocals are quite pleasant though and this is probably the best track on board and has a pleasant complex interchange at the end.

The album ends with the appropriately titled “The Night We Died” suggesting a now neutered MAGMA calling it a day and throwing in the towel. This is basically a sombre piano ballad with the Kobain females singing in unison. Overall i end with the same impression as i began. WTF? This would be perfectly good music for the most part for a Motown act trying to revive their career although a little unfocused but this MAGMA! Those who are held to a higher standard of complexity and innovative incremental progression as well as a higher energy level. This album is too mellow for its own good with the most energetic track sounding like a Michael Jackson B-side with Earth, Wind & Fire backing it up. Nothing on here is bad per se but for a band that carved its own niche in music and continued to ratchet it up album by album, this is surely a let down. After hearing this, it’s very hard to believe they would come back stronger than ever 20 years down the road.

PRINCE Prince

Album · 1979 · Jazz Related RnB
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siLLy puPPy
Despite the debut album being a complete commercial flop, PRINCE quickly followed up with a successor releasing his eponymous second album in October of 1979 and once again basically every single aspect of the album was handled by PRINCE himself including the songwriiting, production, arrangements and musical performances. This album showed PRINCE expanding his eclectic tentacles even further into the nooks and crannies of the musical world. While the album still retains a dominant R&B and synth funk presence, on album number two we get a lot more indicating telltale signs that the future purple one is unfurling his talents just a like a lotus flower unfolding its petals into full bloom. He is also showing first signs of loving to be naked! A shirtless PRINCE graces the cover and he is gleefully riding a unicorn unclothed on the back.

While the first couple of tracks are his usual shtick of synth funk verging on disco exclusively done in falsetto, on the third track “Sexy Dancer” we get a glimpse into some of the future purple one’s sound with a funk guitar taking control fortified with a groovy bass line and a healthy libido oriented lyrical litany complete with heavy breathing rhythmic accompaniments. Actually an early glimpse into the mega-hit “Kiss” to emerge a few years later.

Unfortunately some of my least favorite aspects of PRINCE are present here as well. I’m speaking of the over sappy ballads displayed here with “When We’re Dancing Close And Slow.” OK, maybe if you’re all hot and bothered by the album cover then this might do it for ya, but i’m sorry it’s not working for yours truly. Same goes for “With You,” the very next track which shows that the purple one hadn’t quite learned the art of pacing upbeat tracks with the slower moon howlers that i can’t stand. “Still Waiting” is the exception where PRINCE has a catchy piano man persona and has a beautiful melody that technically is a ballad but has a mid-tempo beat and a more interesting flow of chords, rhythms and harmonies.

The sixth track “Bambi” changes everything and debuts PRINCE’s brilliance of incorporating rock ’n’ roll into his synth funk visions. This track has a nice distorted guitar accompanied by a more real rocking drum beat. While this one rocks complete with little licks that would develop into PRINCE’s unique guitar soloing style, this one is still in tandem with the rest of the album with his falsetto only vocal style and funkified song structure. Still though, a prototype for his more rocking mojo of future hits such as “Let’s Get Crazy” and “U Got The Look.”

While this second album failed to score any significant chart climbing singles, it did hit number 22 on the Billboard album charts and was certified gold in the not too distant future. Despite the lack of singles it did however hit the R&B charts with “I Wanna Be Your Lover” and “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?.” This album is also notable with the eighth track “I Feel For You” which was remade by Chaka Khan in 1984 and proved to be a huge hit which would be the first of songs written by PRINCE and performed by others to prove major chart success. Proof that PRINCE was first and foremost a songwriting behemoth who would go on to write countless tracks for other artists (think The Time, Stevie Nicks and of course Sinead O’Connor as well as the countless acts he spawned over the years.)

JAMES BROWN Hot

Album · 1975 · Jazz Related RnB
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js
Ironically titled “Hot”, this album, except for a few cuts, is not, but instead marks the beginning of James Brown’s long downhill slide that will take up the rest of his career. At this point, there was really no where else for James to go but down. His successes from the 60s into the early 70s made him one of the most energetic, creative and visionary artists in the pop/RnB/rock field, and his wide reaching influence was topped only by Hendrix and the Beatles. Its hard for any artist to burn bright for ever, and “Hot” is evidence of that.

It’s a strange mish-mash that makes up this thrown together album. Side one opens with title song, “Hot”, which is basically a direct lift of David Bowie and Carlos Alomar’s famous “Fame” riff retooled to sound like James and his group. Some are critical of this one, but it hits a solid groove. This is followed by a couple older pop songs updated for no particular reason other than to fill up an album. They’re not bad tracks really, but hardly great either. Track three, “Try Me”, is a terrible update of one of James’ classic ballads. The orchestration is sweet simple corn syrup that would be a better fit on a children’s album or something by Rick Wakeman. Side one closes with some bizarre psychedelic funk that would be alright except that there are these incidental vocal noises that are mixed too loud.

Side two starts strong with the classic funk of “Woman”, easily the best track on the album. The rest of side two is made up of more pop re-makes, some better than others. The best of these is “Most of All”, a doo-wop flavored tune with sophisticated jazzy orchestrations and interesting time change-ups, it also features some of James' best vocals on the album. The re-make of Brown's classic “Please, Please, Please”, seems unnecessary, but at least the arrangement is not near as bad as the previous “Try Me”.

There are a few tracks on here that James Brown fans will want to pick up, but almost any previous James Brown album is better than this one. Unfortunately, James will continue the rest of his career in less than stellar fashion, but fortunately, that will in no way tarnish the best of his early work.

PRINCE For You

Album · 1978 · Jazz Related RnB
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siLLy puPPy
PRINCE Rogers Nelson showed musical talent at a very early age and released several demos before this debut album FOR YOU which emerged in 1978. At this time he was only 17 and i have to say…. sounds like it. This album is a far cry from the masterpieces of “Purple Rain” and the gazillion hits that would follow, but for what this album isn’t, it has kernels of what PRINCE would become yet at this point anyone listening to this album at the time would have a hard time predicting that this strange dude with that funny falsetto would become one of the biggest stars in all of musical history.

This first release by “The Purple One” was a rather modest affair. There is R&B, disco and synth-funk. Pretty much standard affair for the day and improving on none of the greats of the day in even the slightest. The music is nice and catchy and if this was PRINCE’s only album ever to emerge then it might even be a little bit beyond OK, but as we all know the best was yet to come and come again over and over and over again.

This may be one of PRINCE’s lesser appreciated albums simply because it gets drowned in the sea of albums he has released over the years, yet there is something special about a debut album for me whether it is their swan song or not. It displays a time where the artist shows a unique potential (or not) and a portrait of their roots. That is definitely the case with PRINCE here. In all his reserved efforts there is a sense of something lurking beneath the surface ready to unleash itself on an unsuspecting world. The album? OK. I got to this well after being exposed to pretty much everything after, but there is a smattering going on here that points to something more albeit unperceivable at the time.

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