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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EDDIE HARRIS Excursions Album Cover Excursions
EDDIE HARRIS
4.88 | 3 ratings
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JOHN PATTON Got a Good Thing Goin' Album Cover Got a Good Thing Goin'
JOHN PATTON
4.83 | 3 ratings
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STANLEY TURRENTINE Blue Hour Album Cover Blue Hour
STANLEY TURRENTINE
4.95 | 2 ratings
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JIMMY SMITH Got My Mojo Workin' Album Cover Got My Mojo Workin'
JIMMY SMITH
4.68 | 5 ratings
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JOHN SCOFIELD Hand Jive Album Cover Hand Jive
JOHN SCOFIELD
4.75 | 2 ratings
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LES MCCANN Swiss Movement (with Eddie Harris) Album Cover Swiss Movement (with Eddie Harris)
LES MCCANN
4.52 | 6 ratings
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JIMMY SMITH Root Down Album Cover Root Down
JIMMY SMITH
4.47 | 10 ratings
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REUBEN WILSON Blue Mode (aka Organ Talk) Album Cover Blue Mode (aka Organ Talk)
REUBEN WILSON
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)
CANNONBALL ADDERLEY
4.37 | 6 ratings
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DR LONNIE SMITH Mama Wailer Album Cover Mama Wailer
DR LONNIE SMITH
4.50 | 2 ratings
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HERBIE MANN Muscle Shoals Nitty Gritty Album Cover Muscle Shoals Nitty Gritty
HERBIE MANN
4.50 | 2 ratings
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REUBEN WILSON Love Bug Album Cover Love Bug
REUBEN WILSON
4.50 | 2 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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First Fruit
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Pride & Joy
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Standards and Other Songs
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Night Owl
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Chris Greene Quartet : Playspace
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Closer to the Truth
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Booga Looga Loo
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The Definition Of Insanity
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TONY MONACO
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soul jazz Music Reviews

TONY MONACO The Definition Of Insanity

Album · 2019 · Soul Jazz
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js
If there is one musical genre I would not have expected to make a comeback, soul jazz would be that one, and that goes double for Hammond B3 soul jazz. Much like cool jazz and bebop, soul jazz seemed terminally connected to the era that spawned it, and the B3 itself became terribly un-hip during the 80s and seemed destined to stay that way. You can thank both England’s acid jazz scene and changing tastes in US commercial jazz radio for opening the door for funky bluesy B3 jazz to return, but not necessarily in a nostalgic way, this music has managed to adjust and sound relevant and hip again. One deserving recipient of this revival is B3organist Tony Monaco who has just favored us with his 11th album as a leader, “The Definition of Insanity”. This is one helluva fun album, and if that sounds too glib or shallow I’m sorry, but I have been listening to this one a lot lately and it never fails to pick me up, it’s a kick and a half.

“The Definition of Insanity” is an extremely eclectic album, yet it all works. Tony usually includes some originals on his albums, but this time he decided to go mostly with covers and just one original, and that’s where much of the eclecticism comes from as Tony takes on tunes from Phish, Lee Morgan, The Grateful Dead, Floyd Cramer and even includes a classic Italian ballad. Tony cites organists Jimmy Smith, Groove Holmes and Larry Goldings as influences, and all that comes through in his flashy blues drenched solos. Along with plenty of classic soul jazz, this album also covers, Latin, Middle-Eastern grooves, country and a couple vocal ballads too.

Some highlights on here include the driving energy of Phish’s “Cars Trucks Buses”, the contemporary groove of Jimmy Smith’s “Root Down” and the Grateful Dead’s “Truckin” which makes for an excellent soul jazz number. On Floyd Cramer’s country classic, “Last Date”, Tony manages to make the B3 imitate a steel guitar. A couple ballads feature Tony’s vocals which may remind some of Willie Nelson, and that is a good thing. There is a lively energy to this entire outing, during my initial listens I just assumed this was a live date, it certainly sounds like one. As I said earlier, this is a ‘fun’ album, and I definitely need something like this in my collection sometimes.

LES MCCANN On Time

Album · 1962 · Soul Jazz
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Appearing in 1962, the album “On Time” comes fairly early in Les McCann’s career. Les and his crack rhythm section of drummer Ron Jefferson and bassist Leroy Vinnegar had already recorded a couple of successful albums that had established them as leaders in the new combination of jazz, gospel and blues that was being called ‘soul jazz’. This trio didn’t really need any help, but I suppose in an attempt to push things a little further, ace guitarist Joe Pass was asked to join the band and make it a quartet for the recording of “On Time”. Joe is usually known for his ability to navigate fast moving be-bop changes and similar technically demanding fare, but on this McCann opus, he settles into the band’s blues groove and makes an already exciting group just a bit better. So successful was Pass’ merger with the band that he would go on to record with them again after this album.

“On Time’ opens with the hard driving up tempo of the album’s title cut which establishes this bands musical forte, which has more to do with the funky soul of gospel and blues than jazz per se. Les does not play fleet bop lines, but instead plays those riffs that are well known to the church pianist. From here the album continues with mostly mid-tempo blues. “This for Doug” offers a little change up in that it is that rare blues tune in waltz time. Side two continues the party in fine form, the standard “It Could Happen to You” opens as a slow tempo ballad before the band picks up the beat half way through. The album closes with a surprise when they turn Miles’ well known relaxed cool classic “So What”, into a fast paced be-bop barn burner. If you like this sort of early 60s blues-jazz hybrid, “On Time” will not disappoint. This quartet has talent to burn as they put out an album that smokes from start to finish.

MIKE SPINRAD Mike Spinrad with Guido Fazio : Horns

Album · 2018 · Soul Jazz
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Mike Spinrad is a drummer in San Francisco who also writes original music and “Horns’ is his second CD release as a band leader. For this new project Spinrad decided to work with a horn led band, hence the title of the album. To help with this endeavor he enlisted tenor and flute player Guido Fazio, who supplies much of the horn arrangements as well as many stellar solos, plus Richard Conway on trumpet and flugelhorn, and on all but two cuts, Larry Stewart on baritone. Rounding out the band are Don Turney on piano and occasional B3, plus a rotating cast of talented bass players. On first impression, “Horns” recalls classic horn driven soul jazz artists such as David “Fathead” Newman, or the Adderly Brothers, but this album is much more than just that, with further listens you will start to hear the variety of styles that Spinrad is working with, plus his own original and modern nuances that he brings to these compositions and arrangements.

The album opens with the hard bop waltz of “Smarbar”, which is followed by the boogaloo funk of “Bette ‘n Hy”. Starting with track three, the hard driving bop of “Chaim”, Larry Stewart joins the band on baritone, which gives the rest of the cuts on the album a mini big band sound, plus a little extra boost in energy. “Shelia” is the ballad as it supplies the desired abstract pastel colors of today’s post bop sound. This track bears some resemblance to “All the Things You are Here”, especially towards the end of the song. On “Raul”, the band heads into Afro-Cuban territory while pianist Don Turney displays his skills with a driving rhythmic montuno that keeps the tune on time. Finishing up the CD, “Brooke” is a re-working of bop favorite “Cherokee”, “Manny” is California style Latin soul cha-cha, and “Texarkana” is up tempo swing blues.

This CD has grown on me over the past couple weeks, despite the immediate familiarity of many of the tracks, this album holds up well to repeat listens. What we have on “Horns” is very unpretentious party jazz executed with originality and freshness, while avoiding the predictable clichés.

DAVID "FATHEAD" NEWMAN Captain Buckles

Album · 1971 · Soul Jazz
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In the early 70s, soul jazz artists began picking up on the new funk styles of James Brown and Sly Stone, subsequently their music started moving closer to what was happening in the fusion scene. At this point in jazz history, the difference between soul jazz and fusion is not that great. Likewise, both genres were also picking up on the increased interest in musical styles from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. In 1971, soul jazz stalwart, David Newman, gave his reputation a boost when he took on some of the new modern influences of the times and released “Captain Buckles”, which featured hard driving funk as well as some Latin and Calypso rhythms too. More of an RnB artist than a jazz artist, still, Newman’s intense sax solos are held in high esteem by any jazz fan.

Side one of “Captain Buckles” opens with the energetic funk of the title cut, which is powered by drummer Bernard Purdie, possibly one of the most imitated and sampled drummers from the 70s, and he is also one of the main reasons why this album is so good. The rest of this side is taken with the aforementioned Calypso and Latin numbers, plus an obligatory reading of the Beatles’ “Something”. Even in the early 70s, soul jazz artists were still apt to include one possible radio hit on their album. Side two opens with the raging hard bop of “The Clincher”, which includes one of Newman’s best solos on the album. David follows that with a ballad reading of “I Didn’t Know What Time it Was”, which is a much better slow jam than the previous Beatles clunker. The ultra-funky “Negus” closes the album and features guitarist Eric Gales’ best solo. Overall “Captain Buckles” is one of David Newman’s better albums, and is mostly devoid of the sort of corniness that sometimes mars soul jazz albums.

JOCELYN MICHELLE Live at Viva Cantina!

Live album · 2018 · Soul Jazz
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Jocelyn Michelle is an under-rated Hammond B3 player who performs mostly in Hawaii, and occasionally in the LA area too. “Live at Viva Cantina” is just her second album, and as the title would suggest, this record was recorded live at a Mexican restaurant and music venue in LA. Although this album is live, you will hear very little crowd noise and no clinking of glasses, and the production is quite clean, very much like a studio recording. For her choice of material, Jocelyn reprises some originals from here previous studio album, as well as some crowd pleasing covers too. This is a live restaurant gig, and the choice of tunes reflects that as they cover well known pop hits such as “One Note Samba”, The Pink Panther Theme”, “Groovin” and a few more in this vein. The real musical substance on here though can be found in Jocelyn’s originals, which are all excellent, and really this would have been a better album if they had leaned more in that direction.

Michelle has a rather large band assembled here with two saxophones and two trumpets in addition to a guitar, bass and drums rhythm section. The top soloist is probably Jocelyn herself, who provides punchy rhythmic riffs that stay tight in the pocket, somewhat similar to Jimmy McGriff, Jack McDuff and Brian Auger. All the other soloists are good as well, with both saxophone players shining through with virtuoso RnB/jazz rides that can recall Grover Washington and Stanley Turrentine. This is a great CD for fans of current soul jazz, as well as people looking for a jazz album with more of an extroverted party vibe to it. With a fair amount of well known pop tunes on here, even non-jazz fans are apt to feel the groove.

As mentioned earlier, the preponderance of pop covers on here is understandable given that this is a live gig and Jocelyn and crew set out on purpose to record a ‘party’ album, but still, it would be great if Jocelyn would make an album of mostly originals, she is an excellent writer and really should think about utilizing those talents more.

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Artists with Soul Jazz release(s)

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