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.

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STEVIE WONDER Songs in the Key of Life Album Cover Songs in the Key of Life
4.72 | 11 ratings
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STEELY DAN Aja Album Cover Aja
4.61 | 24 ratings
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STEELY DAN Countdown to Ecstasy Album Cover Countdown to Ecstasy
4.50 | 20 ratings
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EARTH WIND & FIRE Gratitude Album Cover Gratitude
4.70 | 6 ratings
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STEVIE WONDER Fulfillingness' First Finale Album Cover Fulfillingness' First Finale
4.45 | 9 ratings
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CURTIS MAYFIELD Curtis/Live! Album Cover Curtis/Live!
4.79 | 3 ratings
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STEVIE WONDER Innervisions Album Cover Innervisions
4.35 | 15 ratings
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ISAAC HAYES Hot Buttered Soul Album Cover Hot Buttered Soul
4.37 | 9 ratings
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EARTH WIND & FIRE All 'n' All Album Cover All 'n' All
4.29 | 8 ratings
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STEVIE WONDER Talking Book Album Cover Talking Book
4.26 | 10 ratings
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SADE (HELEN FOLASADE ADU) Diamond Life Album Cover Diamond Life
4.36 | 5 ratings
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EARTH WIND & FIRE That's the Way of the World Album Cover That's the Way of the World
4.24 | 6 ratings
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jazz related rnb Music Reviews

VAN MORRISON Hymns To The Silence

Album · 1991 · Jazz Related RnB
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Released in 1991 being Van Morrison’s 21st studio album as well being a double containing quite a mix of styles covering Spiritual, Celtic, Narrative, Rock, Jazz and with a touch of Blues thrown in for good measure. Eclectic is one description but personally for me it’s just Van The Man doing what he has always done mixing it up but not just keeping various styles to predominately one album here we are getting them all. The Chieftains are back for two numbers, George Fame (Hammond organ , piano) , Terry Disley (piano), Candy Dulfer (alto sax), Dave Early (drums), Carol Kenyon, Katie Kissoon, (backing vocals) and the list goes on with two different bassists, flugelhorn, another pianist, accordion all employed for the various studio sessions recorded in London with Van himself inputting vocals, guitar, harmonica and alto sax within the album “Hymns To The Silence”

“Professional Jealousy’ gets it all going having a touch of resentment inserted into the lyrics over this mid tempo number with “I’m Not feeling It No Anymore” perhaps being a response for the prior number over a jaunty piano line throughout the song. Blues based “Ordinary Life” with Van on harmonica and a touch of Jazz follows with “Some Peace Of Mind” as the following “So Complicated” keeps that theme going.” Why Must I Always Explain” is often referred to the similarity with “Tupelo Honey” albeit at a slightly faster pace which seems to gel more with the song’s chorus. The Chieftains are the band for the Don Gibson classic country number “I Can’t Stop Loving You” with Van inserting guitar, Paddy Maloney with a Pipe solo and the two backing vocalists adding input for quite a nice take of the song. “Village Idiot” is one of the picks from the album which harkens back to “Crazy Face” from Van’s 1970 album “Van Morrison His Band And The Street Choir” with the odd one out being the topic but perhaps that is not the case at all for this lovely number. Spiritual is the base for the lovely “ See Me Through Part 11 (Just A Closer Walk With Thee)” containing a section of narrative with a later connection to his another narrative on the following disc “ On Hyndford St”. The last one is the slow Blues of “Take Me Back” with repetition a plenty within Van’s vocals in this stretched out delightful low key take.

The Spiritual comes to the fore within the second disc’s make up with the lively “By His Grace”, the Jazzed up “All Saints Day” following and the stunning title song “Hymns To The Silence”. Two narrations are included being “On Hyndford St” and “Pagan Streams” with the later being my pick. The Chieftains are back for another Spiritual “Be Thou My Vision” with the next “ Carrying A Torch” being the best ballad on the album with even Tom Jones using the number with three others contained within this album in his own 1991 release “Carrying A Torch”. The laid back “Green Mansions” and “Quality Street” follow with another nice ballad “It Must Be You” and the album finishing up with the love song “I Need Your Kind Of Loving”.

You won’t be rolling up the carpet or getting the dancing shoes on but this album is still one of Van Morrison’s best releases in the last thirty years containing a great mix of styles with plenty of great moments from Van’s vocals hitting the notes included. Needs a few plays and just have it on early morning, late at night or any quiet moments and just let it roll over and sing and dream along with all these beautiful hymns and narrations, to the silence.

PATTI LABELLE LaBelle ‎: Pressure Cookin'

Album · 1973 · Jazz Related RnB
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It was still a bit of struggle in the late sixties for Patti Labelle at this time to gain much acceptance after the limited success of Patti Labelle and The Blue Belles with one hit and a couple of minor ones, Girl Groups seemed to heading towards a dead-end and then Cindy Birdsong in 1967 from the original four girl line up decided to join the Supremes and to top it off Atlantic Records a year later dumped the band. Patti Labelle contacted Vicki Wickham from London, television producer and booking agent for a British R&B show who herself had always been a fan but realising the band’s current style was just old hat knew they needed to change. She contacted Chris Stamp co owner of Track Records who also was managing the Rock Band The Who during this current period and was taken by Vicki to see the band at The Apollo who signed them after being quite impressed with what he had heard and seen. First up the band’s name was changed to Labelle much to Patti Labelle’s angst with even more to come for her when it was decided that the old material was to be binned with more Rock and Contemporary material to becomes the band’s music. Still it wasn’t long before Patti Labelle realised they were heading in the right direction after the great receptions the band started to get from audiences with the new style as well as being the opening act for The Who, Sly And The Family Stone, Nina Simone and touring with Mandrill. Two albums were cut with Warner Records, “Gonna Take A Miracle” and “Moonshadow” with limited success and then the move came to Nina Simone’s label RCA where more Soul was injected to the band’s sound with Vicki Wickham producing in “Pressure Cookin’ “. The black soul-rock band Maxayn with a conga player were used to back the band on this record bringing forth a much tighter sound garnering this album great critical reviews but still limited success and although that may be so, this one was the main stepping stone to international fame which would follow for them when Epic Records and Allen Toussaint become involved with their next album “Nightbirds”

“Pressure Cookin’ “ the album’s title gets things going with a Funk backing for this politically charged number for this period in time with the Vietnam War, Black Equality and Watergate being the main drivers behind it with track two interlinking being a Medley comprising Thunder Clap Newman’s hit “Something In the Air” combined with Gil Scott Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” and things are kept tight and funky with some great conga input backing “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” component with Labelle delivering it with more of a spoken word similar to Gil’s original take. “Sunshine (Woke Me Up This Morning)” is Funk injected with some great Wah Wah guitar under riding it all. It’s a ballad for “Can I Speak To You Before I Go To Hollywood” concerning old friends in the industry where once fame had reached them no longer seem available. “Mr Music Man” brings the Rock to the fore on the fast moving tune. “Goin’ On A Holiday” having one gorgeous Bass underpinning with a great hitting the notes vocal from Patti and the girls. “Let Me See You In The Light” is a delightful Soul based number with more of that great conga underneath. “Open Up Your Heart” and let me in and it sure does for this thumpin’ mid tempo Funk number with some great backing vocals for Patti’s lead. The lovely ballad “Last Dance” concludes proceedings with both ballads as good as each other that were incorporated within the album.

Really good album. If you loved “Nightbirds” the following and have not heard this one, you better get it!

QUINCY JONES Smackwater Jack

Album · 1971 · Jazz Related RnB
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In the late 50s Quincy Jones was a big hit as one of the new leaders in jazz big band, as well as a very influential orchestral arranger in any style of music. The 60s saw Quincy move more into soundtrack work. As the early 70s rolled up, Jones was still scoring soundtracks, but he also began to release his own albums again, but they were no longer purely big band affairs anymore. Jones is a one hundred percent jazz musician for sure, but he also excels at ambitious art pop and RnB. On “Smackwater Jack”, Quincy rolled all those influences together and produced an album with a mix of 70s and 60s sensibilities. Seventies because of the multi-sectioned art pop arrangements that mirror the progressive rock and RnB of that era and the very modern funk and RnB beats that drive the solo sections. The album mirrors the 60s in its glitzy big band arrangements and Quincy’s ongoing sense of 60s suburban kitsch hipness of the Johnny Carson/Playboy/Vegas/ era.

“Smackwater Jack” is basically a big band album disguised as a pop album. This formula will work well for Jones a few years later when he starts doing the same thing for Michael Jackson. The big band on “Jack” is all-star affair, some of the soloists include, Freddie Hubbard, Hubert Laws, Milt Jackson, Toots Thielman, Jim Hall and Eric Gayle. You can expect plenty of top notch and inspired solos on all these tracks. Unfortunately Quincy sings on two songs, and he’s not a great singer. Also, the theme from the first Bill Cosby show features Bill himself with some ‘amusing’ vocalizing that probably seemed funnier in the past. Other songs on the album also center around TV themes, plus there are few covers of pop and RnB hits too. One album highlight is the lengthy arrangement of “Whats Going On” that features Valerie Simpson on vocals. Because of its unique combination of rough street smart rhythms and glitzy big band pop kitsch, “Smackwater Jack” rates high with crate diggers and exotica collectors, but it also contains plenty of high quality energetic big band RnB/jazz.

SLY5THAVE The Invisible Man : An Orchestral Tribute to Dr. Dre

Album · 2017 · Jazz Related RnB
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I have to admit that the idea of an ‘orchestral tribute to Dr Dre’ first hit me as some kind of joke along the lines of The Monkees play heavy metal, or Mozart goes reggae mon. It was hard to imagine the sparse hip-hop arrangements of Dr Dre in an orchestrated format, but Sly5thAve’s new album, “The Invisible Man, an Orchestrated Tribute to Dr Dre”, has certainly proved me wrong. In a year laden with highly creative artsy RnB albums, “The Invisible Man” has been able to stand out as one of the best for 2017. The combination of Dr Dre’s laid back grooves and Sly’s hip, slightly retro, orchestrations are an irresistible combination that may have you playing this one over and over.

Sly5thAve is actually Sylvester Uzoma Onyejaka II, a versatile saxophonist who also produces and doubles on a variety of instruments. His talents have brought him work with many including Prince, Maceo Parker, all of the Marsalis Brothers and many other top RnB, pop and jazz musicians. “The Invisible Man” is just Sly’s second full length album, but it sounds like the work of a seasoned veteran. Right off the bat these orchestrated soulful tracks may have you thinking Isaac Hayes and Quincy Jones, and there is some of that sound here, but even closer is the arranger that Dr Dre was fond of sampling from, David Axelrod. Sly’s use of pulsing steady rhythms often recall Axelrod’s sometimes processional sounding arrangements that could almost border on regal and militaristic in an almost campy sort of way. In that respect, another similar famous arranger comes to mind, and that’s George Martin, the exotica composer who also did arrangements for the Beatles, particularly the ‘Sgt Peppers’ album. Still, with the Dr Dre’s iconic beats and attitude going on, Sly’s orchestral creation stands in a world all its own.

The hip-hop world was all over this record when it came out, but the jazz world didn’t seem to take much notice, which is unfortunate because there is plenty here for a fan of contemporary jazz to like. Many of these tracks feature jazz solos by a variety of top notch musicians, for instance the burning guitar solo by Patrick Bailey on the hard driving “Curtis”, or Sly‘s Eddie Harris like electric sax ride on “The Jam Part III“. Although this album lists 23 total tracks, many of the tracks blend together to make just one song, such as the ultra funky string of tracks that start with “No Diggity”. For those who may be rapaphobic or raptose intolerant, although this is a Dr Dre tribute, there is no rapping on here. Meanwhile. others may want to use these tracks to back up some original free verse.


Album · 1979 · Jazz Related RnB
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During the 60s, Quincy Jones was one of the more successful jazz composers and arrangers in the business, creating a unique style that became the sound of American movie and TV themes, as well as background incidental music too. As the 70s developed, Quincy’s concise and economical approach didn’t jibe as well with the more excessive hippiefied era, and although his soundtracks were still happening, he no longer had the same impact anymore. In 1976 Jones hooked up with brand new RnB phenoms, The Brothers Johnson, and helped them mold a new lean and clean funk sound that pointed towards the future. A few years after this, the already rising star of Michael Jackson was showing even greater potential when he teamed up with his brother Randy to create a striking new dance hit with the song, “Shake Your Body Down to the Ground”, that brought new life to a somewhat dismal late 70s RnB/dance scene. Late 70s RnB radio had become dominated by a decaying disco scene that pumped out one bland and predictable track after another. The stage was now set for Quincy and Michael to team up and turn the world of commercial dance music inside out in a fire burst of creativity in the form of the album, “Off the Wall”.

As soon as the first track, “Don’t Stop till You get Enough”, opened, you could tell the days of boring thump thump thump disco music were on their way out. With this fresh new track we were given a melodic syncopated kick drum pattern surround by Latin and African percussion figures. Interlocking horn, string and guitar patterns sounded like a sophisticated big band, and over it all were Michael’s floating complex vocal arrangements. A new day had dawned indeed. The rest of side one is just one masterpiece after another with “Workin Day and Night” providing some of the hottest horn and guitar riffs since the heyday of James Brown, and “Rock with You” supplying something that hadn’t been heard of in dance music in a long while, an interesting melody and original chord changes. The quality drops a bit on side two, with the last two tracks not quite up to the rest of the album, but even those tracks could beat the competition of the day with the possible exception of Rick James and the occasional Funkadelic/Parliament track.

Almost forty years later, Quincy and Michael’s creation still stands as one of the top RnB, dance or pop albums of all time. Still, this album would not be the pinnacle of this duo’s efforts. That peak would come on the next album, “Thriller”, on which Jones and Jackson would take their creativity just one notch higher.

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