Pop Jazz/Crossover

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You can't blame a jazz musician for trying to make a buck now and again, even Charlie Parker made an album or two full of ballads backed by strings. In this genre, pop jazz refers to jazz artists who play 'dinner jazz', 'smooth jazz', 'quiet storm' or whatever else they call it these days. Crossover refers to pop artists, such as Sting, who combine jazzy aspirations with caviar dreams for multi-platinum success. In this genre the two artist types come together as they often do on recording dates when the crossover artist shells out some big bucks to enlist the skills of the pop jazz soloist, such as the always in demand David Sanborn, for that authentic jazzy sound.

pop jazz/crossover top albums

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

BLOOD SWEAT & TEARS Child Is Father to the Man Album Cover Child Is Father to the Man
BLOOD SWEAT & TEARS
4.76 | 6 ratings
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STING The Soul Cages Album Cover The Soul Cages
STING
4.62 | 9 ratings
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MILTON NASCIMENTO Clube da Esquina Album Cover Clube da Esquina
MILTON NASCIMENTO
4.81 | 4 ratings
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HERB ALPERT Rise Album Cover Rise
HERB ALPERT
4.82 | 3 ratings
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STEVE WINWOOD Roll With It Album Cover Roll With It
STEVE WINWOOD
4.77 | 3 ratings
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DONALD FAGEN The Nightfly Album Cover The Nightfly
DONALD FAGEN
4.28 | 9 ratings
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BLOOD SWEAT & TEARS Blood, Sweat & Tears Album Cover Blood, Sweat & Tears
BLOOD SWEAT & TEARS
4.23 | 7 ratings
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CHICAGO Chicago VII Album Cover Chicago VII
CHICAGO
4.14 | 7 ratings
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JONI MITCHELL Song to a Seagull Album Cover Song to a Seagull
JONI MITCHELL
4.50 | 2 ratings
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CHUCK MANGIONE An Evening of Magic: Live at the Hollywood Bowl Album Cover An Evening of Magic: Live at the Hollywood Bowl
CHUCK MANGIONE
4.15 | 5 ratings
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STING Ten Summoner's Tales Album Cover Ten Summoner's Tales
STING
3.98 | 8 ratings
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DONALD FAGEN Sunken Condos Album Cover Sunken Condos
DONALD FAGEN
4.17 | 3 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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pop jazz/crossover Music Reviews

PHIL WOODS Round Trip

Album · 1969 · Pop Jazz/Crossover
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js
One of the top alto sax players of all time, Phil Woods cut plenty of serious bop tracks, as well as more experimental fare, but he also had no problem heading into pop areas as well. “Round Trip” is a good example of one of his more pop efforts, but don’t think of this album as lightweight, instead, there is plenty of artistry and creativity at work in the orchestrations, which are topped by Phil’s always brilliant playing. As is the case in any genre of music, there are bad pop jazz albums, and there are good ones, and this is definitely one of the latter. What we have on here are eleven short energetic tracks, about half are Woods originals, with the rest including some lesser played standards and covers of some of the more interesting pop tunes of the day. Artsy ambitious pop was the order of the day back in 1969, with groups like the Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel raising the bar on what could be contained in a radio friendly song, and those ambitions are reflected in Phil’s orchestrations and arrangements on “Round Trip”.

No doubt Phil’s time with the Quincy Jones orchestra is in evidence with these smart punchy arrangements, but you can also hear the influence of the hippiefied progressive big band music of Don Ellis too. This is very much a late 60s creation, bursting with the sort of optimism that defined much music during that time. The songs are short and to the point, and likewise Phil’s solos are short too, but still transcendent. Phil is just about the only soloist on here, with the exception of one short piano solo, and a brief sax battle with Jerry Dodgion. Unfortunately there are no other musician credits on here except Johnny Pate.

Phil Woods recently passed on, but before he left us, he played one last concert, a re-creation of the famous “Charlie Parker with Strings” album. No doubt that album was a favorite of Woods. Listening to Phil’s extensive use of strings on here makes you wonder if “Round Trip” was possibly Phil’s 60s style tribute to Parker’s pop side.

MICAH BARNES New York Stories

Album · 2015 · Pop Jazz/Crossover
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js
Micah Barnes has been working his way up through the ranks in the world of male jazz singers for a while now, and his recent “New York Stories” is the album that should seal his place near the top. This is an ambitious album on which all the tunes are originals penned by Barnes. These songs were inspired by Barnes’ recent residence in New York City, and his subsequent romance with an un-named ‘partner’, who was working on Broadway. It takes some nerve to say you can write original lyrics and music about NYC, you certainly don’t want to come across as naïve or vainly opportunistic, but Micah comes through on here with some exciting catchy songs that do manage to capture the energy and vibe of ‘New Yawk’, as he likes to pronounce it.

Right off you will notice Barnes’ connection to old school swingin cats like Sinatra and Mel Torme, but he also invokes more recent stylists such as Harry Connick Jr and Kurt Elling. The piano trio setting of the tunes also recalls classic Nat King Cole. Barnes’ songwriting reflects his interest in the classic pop jazz of Cole Porter and the Brill Building composers, but he also shows influence from contemporary writers who also draw from that same Brill era, artists such as Elvis Costello, Paul Simon, Billy Joel and Donald Fagen. The musical styles on here range from old school swing to pop RnB along the lines of Boz Scaggs and Steely Dan. There is also a dramatic cabaret number that has Micah sounding like a young David Bowie, plus an Elvis Presley styled ‘tender’ ballad. Despite the diversity, it all flows together.

The mark of a good pop album is songs that get in your head and won’t leave you alone, and that’s what a lot of these songs will do, particularly the dry sassy wit of “After the Romance the Rent” and “I’m Going Back to My Used to Be”. It seems Micah is shooting for some possible future standards here, and those two aforementioned tunes stand a good chance of becoming just that. Barnes is an excellent singer with wide range, elastic vocal chords and dead on pitch, this album is highly recommended for fans of great jazz vocals, as well as fans of original song writing.

WILLARD MCDANIEL '88' A La Carte

Album · 1958 · Pop Jazz/Crossover
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js
Willard McDaniel was mostly known as a blues and RnB sideman who played boogie-woogie piano and worked with guys like Roy Milton, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, T Bone Walker and BB King. A highly accomplished pianist, McDaniel was also known to play stride in the style of Fats Waller. Later in his career you might find McDaniel playing background music in lounges and supper clubs around the Los Angelas area, and that is the style of McDaniel’s that you will find on “88 a la Carte”. No doubt McDaniel is a formidable pianist, but this is music meant to soothe and relax, as well as appeal to those who prefer pop to heavy jazz. McDaniel is backed by an un-credited stand up bassist and trap player, but they keep it cool and in the background, this is definitely Willard’s show.

The tunes on here favor well known jazz standards, as well as a few popular tunes of the day and a couple surprises, including “Sugar Blues’, a cut that allows McDaniel to show a little personality. The playing on here is highly skilled with an influence from the ultra-cool lounge stylist George Shearing, as well as some gimmicky crowd pleasing effects along the lines of Roger Williams, Floyd Cramer and Bent Fabric. The quality of the song interpretations vary from the very cheezy “You Always Hurt the One You Love”, to an up-tempo “I’ll Remember April”, that almost sounds like real jazz. “Along the Navaho Trail” also allows Willard to play in his more familiar blues style.

“88” was put out on the ultra budget Crown label, but the recording is fairly good for a label with such a bad reputation. This isn’t great jazz, but it wasn’t meant to be, this is what used to play in hotel lobbies and high end restaurants before the advent of customized muzak stations and personal internet radio. If you have any interest in this rapidly disappearing bit of lounge culture, “88 a la Carte” is a great example of a style that was once very prevalent. You can still find this LP on the internet, in thrift stores or anywhere else the flotsam and jetsam of the LP world goes to make its last stand.

SUSAN CLYNES Life Is...

Live album · 2014 · Pop Jazz/Crossover
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kev rowland
Susan Clynes is a Belgian singer, pianist and songwriter who is forging her own path in music. After taking classical and jazz piano lessons and attending jazz workshops while in high school, Susan chose to follow her heart: shunning a more traditional course of university studies and career path in order to study music composition, and earning a Master’s Degree at the Ghent Conservatory. Her debut album was released in 2005, ‘Sugar For A Dream’, but this is her first full album since then. She is married to keyboardist Antoine Guenet (The Wrong Object, Sh.t.gn and Universe Zero) and Antoine encouraged her to perform as a guest vocalist on The Wrong Object’s ‘After The Exhibition’ and then suggested casually to Leonardo that Susan should join the label in her own right.

Leo also thought that it was a good idea, and this is the result. Unusually, this is actually a live album in the sense that these songs are taken from three different concerts, and while she is joined by Pierrre Mottet (bass) and Nico Chifki (drums) on two songs, there are another five where she is accompanied by cellist Simon Lenski (from RIO band Daau) and they obviously have a real connection. There are times when I am reminded of early Suzanne Vega or Tori Amos, but at others we are treated to Rio or avant-garde jazz, or torch, or any number of jazz styles. She has a wonderfully clear voice, combined with incredibly effective piano, and there is just the slight use of reverb on her microphone that assists in giving additional presence and the result is something that is immensely powerful. It really demonstrates that it doesn’t need crashing guitars or over the top dynamics to come across with something that grabs the listener and holds them enthralled to the very end. It is an absolutely stunning piece of work, and I for one would certainly be interested in hearing the debut now, I wonder if Leo is thinking of releasing that as well? (hint). Sheer beauty from the beginning to the very end. www.moonjune.com

WES MONTGOMERY Greatest Hits

Boxset / Compilation · 1970 · Pop Jazz/Crossover
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js
Despite having a fairly short career, Wes Montgomery was one of the most talented and influential jazz guitarists ever. After a promising start as a soulful and bluesy hard boppist, Wes began making pop oriented albums in the early 60s and then suddenly died of a heart attack in the late 60s before he had a chance to get back to recording jazz albums again. “Greatest Hits” on the A&M label is a collection of the pop tunes Wes recorded for that label from the mid to late 60s. The tunes on here are a mixed bag, some are fairly cheezy while others give Wes a chance to show what he is capable of. To Montgomery’s credit, the cheeziest moments never come from him, but from the heavy handed arranger(s) who gets carried away with the strings and other window dressings (no credits are given, but that is probably the talented but sometimes excessive Don Sebesky handling the orchestra). On the other hand, Wes’s playing maintains its integrity and his blues roots never yield to the candy coated orchestrations.

The best tune on here is “Scarborough Fair”, which has little orchestra clutter, therefore allowing Wes to state the melody in free abstract form and then head straight for a cool flavored modal jam, sort of Coltrane-lite if you will. “I Say a Little Prayer” has sophisticated chord changes and one of Wes’ most energetic solos on the album and “Road Song” is a classic soul jazz groove with some good horn kicks. The rest of the cuts on here vary from okay to a couple that are not that great. Still, on every tune, Wes never drops the ball and remains creative and very much himself.

Even amongst Wes Montgomery’s pop tunes, this may not be the best collection, buts its not the worst either, sort of in-between. If you like Montgomery’s pop covers, or 60s pop jazz in general, then this may make a worthwhile purchase. Its not too hard to find it at a very reasonable price too.

pop jazz/crossover movie reviews

STING Bring On The Night

Movie · 2005 · Pop Jazz/Crossover
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Slartibartfast
The concept here is a documentary of a band forming, The Blue Turtles Band, rather than a band at their peak or breaking up. Fortunately it is heavier on the music than the documentary.

The first half takes place in a French countryside chateaux and consists of presentable songs from nine days of practice sessions for what was to be their first show. Everyone in the band seems to be having a good time. The chateaux provides nice a nice backdrop to the sessions. The second half is the show itself.

Since this was Sting's first post Police effort, there's a lot of reworked Police songs mixed in with tracks from the first album. It's sort of like the Police meets jazz with Andy Summers ejected so Sting could play guitar. The band line up is primarily younger jazz musicians that already had a good reputation for work they had done before hooking up with Sting.

There are interview excerpts between the songs. One of the more interesting ones was Miles Copeland, Sting's manager and Stewart's brother going on about negotiations with the rest of the band. He was extremely dismissive of the band in relation to Sting when it came to monetary compensation. I suspect that was more about himself getting a bigger piece of the pie than a reflection on Sting, although I do recall him guest appearing on a Saturday Night Live show with Steve Marting and Steve introducing him as Stin-gy.

I originally saw this one in a theater and was really pleased to see it released being reworked with "high definition digital anamorphic picture transfer and digitally remastered surround audio." It actually does look a little sharper than I recall and I think the orginal sound was just stereo.

Artists with Pop Jazz/Crossover release(s)

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