Dizzy Gillespie started out his career as one of jazz’s most important trailblazing innovators. Like most musicians who stick around long enough, Dizzy’s later career was a mixed bag with the always good-natured Diz willing to participate in endeavors that were sometimes less than stellar, which leads us to this pop-RnB soul jazz LP that is sometimes titled “Sweet Soul”, and other times, “Azure Blue”. Whatever it is titled, it is actually Dizzy's "Soul and Salvation", released in 1969, and it sounds very much like a 60s RnB production geared for am radio and automobile dashboard speakers.
Soul jazz in itself is a genre that ranges from excellent sides by folks like Eddie Harris and Herbie Mann, to pure commercial fluff put out by others. “Sweet Soul” falls somewhere in-between those two extremes with about half the cuts featuring solid RnB/jazz riffs, while the other half can range from trite to outright annoying. The credits on here are very sketchy, but there is a very prominent saxophonist on here who carries most of the melodies and a lot of the solos too, quite possibly it is James Moody, but there are several other saxophonists on here as well as a couple more trumpeters besides Diz.
“Sweet Soul” starts out fairly strong with the first five cuts all being fairly catchy RnB pop songs, third track “Azure Blue” is particularly striking with a great solo from Diz. Track six, “Party Man” introduces one of this album’s biggest faults, wordless vocals (“yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah”) that repeat every couple of bars throughout the entire song in a very mind-numbing fashion. Its really hard to make it through the entire song after you have heard that refrain more than three or four times. A couple more songs also contain the overbearing vocals and as the album wears on you begin to realize that a lot of these songs are very similar to each other. Adding to this album’s cheapness and lack of credibility is this hilariously polite canned applause that starts and ends each song. I seriously doubt this is a “live” record as the applause is exactly the same every time it comes around.
The main plus on here is that Dizzy’s soloing is high energy on every cut, even the banal ones. Fans of rare groove and classic soul jazz may want to pick this up, there are just enough good cuts on here to make it worthwhile, but anyone looking for Gillespie’s outstanding contributions to jazz will want to pick up something from earlier in his career.