Soul Jazz

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Soul jazz is a subset of the hard bop genre and carries the hard bop tendency towards RnB and blues just a bit further. It was the original intention of JMA to list the soul jazz artists in hard bop, but the line was drawn at the bluesy B3 organ players such as Groove Holmes and Jack McDuff. Put simply, soul jazz is instrumental RnB or blues with a swing or funk beat topped with virtuoso jazz solos. You can also find soul jazz artists on JMA in the hard bop, funk jazz, and acid jazz genres.

soul jazz top albums

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STANLEY TURRENTINE Blue Hour Album Cover Blue Hour
4.89 | 3 ratings
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EDDIE HARRIS Excursions Album Cover Excursions
4.73 | 4 ratings
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JOHN PATTON Got a Good Thing Goin' Album Cover Got a Good Thing Goin'
4.69 | 4 ratings
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JIMMY SMITH Got My Mojo Workin' Album Cover Got My Mojo Workin'
4.60 | 6 ratings
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LES MCCANN Les McCann & Eddie Harris : Swiss Movement Album Cover Les McCann & Eddie Harris : Swiss Movement
4.53 | 7 ratings
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JIMMY SMITH Root Down Album Cover Root Down
4.47 | 11 ratings
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JOHN SCOFIELD Groove Elation! Album Cover Groove Elation!
4.50 | 6 ratings
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JOHN SCOFIELD Hand Jive Album Cover Hand Jive
4.54 | 3 ratings
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REUBEN WILSON Blue Mode (aka Organ Talk) Album Cover Blue Mode (aka Organ Talk)
4.50 | 3 ratings
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HERBIE MANN Muscle Shoals Nitty Gritty Album Cover Muscle Shoals Nitty Gritty
4.50 | 3 ratings
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CANNONBALL ADDERLEY Mercy, Mercy, Mercy! (aka V.I.P.-Jazz 3) Album Cover Mercy, Mercy, Mercy! (aka V.I.P.-Jazz 3)
4.38 | 8 ratings
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LOU DONALDSON Say It Loud! Album Cover Say It Loud!
4.50 | 2 ratings
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soul jazz Music Reviews

EDDIE HARRIS Silver Cycles

Album · 1969 · Soul Jazz
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Eddie Harris built a solid reputation early in his career as someone who could turn out catchy soul jazz numbers that did well on Black radio stations. As he headed into the late 60s, Eddie, like so many others in the music world, felt a desire to branch out and experiment more. This desire to try new things came to fruition on Harris’s 1969 album, “Silver Cycles”. On this LP, Eddie established a new norm that would go on to mark much of the rest of his career as a tireless eclectic experimenter who was adept at many musical genres.

“Silver Cycles” opens with two excellent funky soul jazz workouts that I would imagine his record company insisted on placing first so that his long time fans would find what they were expecting. On third track, “Smoke Signals”, Eddie signals a definite left hand turn as this mysterious number paints an exotic atmosphere with wordless vocals and echoed saxophone lines. All through out this album Harris makes use of an Echoplex and also sometimes replaces his acoustic sax with the odd sounding electric sax. Side one closes out with, “Coltrane’s View”, which resembles “Naima”, and a sublime big band power ballade called “I’m Gonna Leave You by Yourself”. This last track is worth the cost of the entire album and one of the best songs of Harris’ lengthy career.

Side two is the more experimental side and features a lot of Eddie playing the saxophone by himself and building overlapping lines with his echo machine. His various rhythm sections (there are many guests on here) provide psychedelic fusion over drive on “Little Bit”, and insanely up tempo avant-garde bebop on “Infrapolations”, which bears some resemblance to “Giant Steps”. Musically “Silver Cycles” compares well to other experimental fusion records of the era from folks like Miles and Herbie, so why isn’t this album a well-known fusion classic? A couple things work against this album, the two colors only album cover looks cheap like a bargain bin album, and yes, Eddie’s albums tended to hit the bargain bin often and he seems to always have a cheap looking album cover. Another problem is the production, this album just sounds kind of flat in a way, but from a purely musical perspective, “Silver Cycles” is a gem in the late 60s world of psychedelic fusion.

JEREMY MONTEIRO Jeremy Monteiro & Alberto Marsico : Jazz-Blues Brothers (2021 edition)

Boxset / Compilation · 2021 · Soul Jazz
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All that modern abstract cutting edge cerebral jazz is cool and all, but sometimes you want to hear something that might inspire more of an extroverted party vibe, and that’s where an album like “Jazz-Blues Brothers” comes in. The Jazz Blues Brothers are Jeremy Monteiro on piano and Alberto Marsico on organ, two super hot blues and jazz keyboardists who really deserve more press and recognition than they currently receive. No less than Joey DeFrancesco has described Marsico as one of his favorite organ players. The rest of the band is top notch as well with Eugene Pao supplying rapid jagged bebop and fusion lines on the guitar, and also going full on rock star on a couple tunes as well. Shawn Letts is the required funky tenor player that is essential for soul jazz outings and Shawn Kelley holds down the groove on the drums. Powerhouse blues vocalist Miz Dee Longwood also joins for “I’d Rather Drink Muddy Water” and “I’d Rather Go Blind”, both recorded live with the band.

So many good tracks on here, “Opening Act” sets the mood with a classic hard bop swing and “Olympia” follows with some funky RnB. “Mount Olive” sounds like classic Eddie Harris and “Catastrophy” is rapid bebop that lets everyone show off their high speed chops. As mentioned already, there are also a couple of blues vocal numbers too. The real draw for this album though is the skill of the players. Marsico is easily one of the very hottest B3 players around, and Monteiro has a massive piano attack that recalls past masters like Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson. Add to that, Guitarist Eugene Pao, whose fiery guitarisms bring much to this soulful affair.

RICHARD "GROOVE" HOLMES Supa Cookin (with Jimmy McGriff)

Boxset / Compilation · 1974 · Soul Jazz
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Supa Cookin’ is one of those jazz records that throws all attempts at subtlety out the window and goes for high energy good time jams in which the players gladly show off their most dexterous high speed licks in a crowd pleasing display of showmanship. This sort of thing can be embarrassing if the players can’t deliver, but Holmes and McGriff come through with fierce solos and the energy never drops for a second.

This is a two record live set that features the duo B3s of Holmes and McGriff, plus two or three guitars, one drummer and a percussionist on each side. There is a change of lineup on the second disc with Leon Cook and Mark Elf replacing George Freeman on second (plus third) guitar, and Mike Moss replacing Bernard Purdie on drums. I don’t know if the lineup change is the reason, but the music on the second record is better and more modern than the first disc.

Record one is mostly swing based hard bop and the guys really work it to death, but I prefer record two on which they play in a 70s funk jazz style on ‘The Preacher’s Tune’, and a modern African fusion style on ‘Mozambique’. The fast bop tunes on record two also go at a more furious pace than the ones on record one. Overall, disc one is more like the old Holmes-McGriff soul jazz style we‘ve heard before, but disc two shows them becoming more modern and more high energy as well.

This is a live recording and the B3s have great natural distortion for a rock like aggressive energy. The double and triple guitar player effect is also nice as they complement each other with interlocking funky riffs. If you like virtuoso B3 playing, this is a good one.

MIKE SCOTT Collecting Things

Album · 2020 · Soul Jazz
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Mike Scott is a 20 year veteran of the Los Angelas music scene and every ten years or so he puts out a CD of original music. His latest, “Collecting Things”, is his third album as a leader and finds him performing an eclectic, but relaxed set of hard bop, blues, Latin jazz and folk rock instrumentals. Scott has that Jim Hall influence that we tend to associate with the west coast, plus a good dose of Wes Montgomery’s blues jazz. In a recent interview, Pat Metheny complained that too many current guitarists sound like himself, well Pat would be happy to know that Scott does not sound like Pat, or any other guitarists with that contemporary soft sound. Instead, Mike’s attack has some welcome bite to it, somewhat like John Schofield, but without a trace of John’s well known clichés. Helping Mike out here we also have the keyboards of Joe Bagg, plus Darek Oles on bass and Jake Reed on drums.

Mike has a background in classical guitar, and his training in expressive finger picking pays off on the opening classically flavored “Sol Minor Prelude”. This is followed by three hard bop/blues tracks with “Jack’s Dilemma” achieving a nirvana like tranquil balance with its very cool space blues vibe reminiscent of “All Blues” and “Killer Joe”. “On a Clear Day” is the one cover on the album and it is given a Latin rhythm which also applies to the next two numbers. Mike concludes the album with a couple soulful rock ballads that have a Curtis Mayfield or Bobby Womack vibe to them.

“Collecting Things” is one of those albums that will probably slip by a lot of people. Mike’s playing is somewhat understated, but he is very musical and repeat listens will surely play to this CD’s advantage. The aforementioned “Jack’s Dilemma” is a great song for showing Mike’s strengths. A simple melodic statement packed with a lot of soul and delivered with perfectly patient timing.

GRANT GREEN Green is Beautiful

Album · 1970 · Soul Jazz
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Green is Beautiful” is a transitional album for Grant Green as it finds him moving more from the hard bop of his early career and more towards a funk/RnB sound. Like a lot of soul jazz LPs form this era. ‘Beautiful’ is kind of hit and miss with about one half good RnB jazz grooves, and about one half pop ditties that are forgettable. Side one opens with a cover of James Brown’s “Aint it Funky Now”, and it’s a solid cooker with great solos from the whole crew, including saxophonist Claude Bartee, who might remind some of Eddie Harris. This side closes out with the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life”. This song was popular with soul jazz musicians, but it never works well. Although it’s a good song in its original format, the different changes in the arrangement don’t lend itself very well to jazz or RnB solos.

Side two opens with another JB’s style groove, “The Windjammer”, which is followed by a very lackluster “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again”. I’m not sure whose idea it was to include this very cheesy pop song, but it sticks out like the sorest of thumbs. It’s a bad song to begin with and there is no way to save it, or make it better. The album closes with the best track, “Dracula”, another funk number and one of the few tracks with a very strong melody. If you keep the three best tracks on “Green is Beautiful”, you have a decent funk jazz album, albeit one that mostly sounds like a jam session. It doesn’t hurt that Green in his crew know how to turn in hot solos over an infectious groove.

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