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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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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PAUL SIMON Graceland Album Cover Graceland
PAUL SIMON
4.17 | 3 ratings
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pop jazz/crossover Music Reviews

JONI MITCHELL Song to a Seagull

Album · 1968 · Pop Jazz/Crossover
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siLLy puPPy
Roberta Joan Anderson aka JONI MITCHELL emerged from the frosty plains of Canada in the Saskatchewan heartlands and developed her unique poetic prowess that took on social issues along with emotional heart string tugs from a very young age. She further stood out by developing her unique contralto vocal style as well as with alternative guitar tunings. While generally considered a folk artist, she incorporated aspects of jazz, rock, classical and R&B into her compositions. While she is much more noted for her 70s releases such as “Ladies Of The Canyon,” “Blue,” “Court And Spark” and my favorite title of all “The Hissing Of Summer Lawns,” JONI began her career all the way back in the early 60s and released her debut album SONG TO A SEAGULL in 1968.

While that was the intended title from the get go, a major boo boo at the printing press omitted the title and the album became known as simply as JONI MITCHELL. The title was supposed to be spelled out by seagulls on the cover and has since been corrected but will immortally live on as a bititular release. The album is divided into two halves. The first five tracks which were originally side one on LP fall under the banner of “I Came To The City” while the following five tracks which composed side two constitute the “Out Of The City And Down To The Seaside” half of the album. They pretty much simply create a filing system as to group subject matter of lyrics. This is very much an insider’s folk music album as it features Stephen Stills on bass and David Crosby as the producer.

While this debut release often gets forgotten in favor of the more successful releases from the 70s, this one should not be missed. This is pure JONI through and through. Perhaps the most pure and unrestrained JONI without any record company and music career pressures to perform. JONI’s vocal performances on this one are simply angelic. As she reaches for the light with her goddess wails, she achieves a state of sublimity that few other could. While the songs are light hearted and acoustically driven, there is a sincere heart felt discharge of emotions going on here. While the JONI sound on the debut won’t sound alien to anyone familiar with her later releases, this is where it all started with all those lovable elements already in place. There is not one track that isn’t captivating as hell on this one. From “I Had A King” to the prickly free “Catcus Tree,” this is a brilliant folk melodrama that injects itself straight into the bloodstream and delivers directly into the heart. A woefully underrated album in her discography.

HERBIE HANCOCK Sunlight

Album · 1978 · Pop Jazz/Crossover
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liontime
This album sits in an unfortunate genre crossover. Many jazz fanatics will find this album to be trifling and even disappointing when compared to the legendary work Herbie Hancock did in the 60's and earlier 70's. On the other hand, many pop and soul fans will shy away from the meandering songs that often exceed eight minutes in length. But, to those who love both genres, this album has aged surprisingly well (especially surprising considering the extravagent suit on the front has its own credits in the liner notes).

Here, Hancock makes extensive use of a vocoder through which he sings the entire album. The result is not one of cold, robotic shrillness but rather a warm, pleasant fuzziness. Hancock's vocals freely wander through the mix and understandably blend in with the other instruments. Don't approach this album expecting technical mastery or dance floor filling beats. Find a free afternoon where you can sit in the ~sunlight~ and give this record an honest shot. It's very rewarding if you give it a chance.

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.

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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