RnB

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The line between jazz and RnB is often blurry. Both styles of music come from the same sources and both influence each other as they constantly cross paths. The Jazz Related RnB genre at JMA pays tribute to RnB bands that are not jazz bands in name only. For example, the early to mid-70s version of Earth Wind and Fire caught the attention of many jazz and fusion fans with their virtuoso horn charts, poly-rhythmic foundation and extended harmonies over modern jazz chord changes. Many of the RnB artists listed in this genre had a strong impact on the development of jazz.

rnb top albums

Showing only albums and live's | Based on members ratings & JMA custom algorithm | 24 hours caching

STEVIE WONDER Songs in the Key of Life Album Cover Songs in the Key of Life
STEVIE WONDER
4.82 | 12 ratings
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STEELY DAN Aja Album Cover Aja
STEELY DAN
4.58 | 28 ratings
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STEVIE WONDER Innervisions Album Cover Innervisions
STEVIE WONDER
4.60 | 17 ratings
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EARTH WIND & FIRE Gratitude Album Cover Gratitude
EARTH WIND & FIRE
4.70 | 6 ratings
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STEELY DAN Countdown to Ecstasy Album Cover Countdown to Ecstasy
STEELY DAN
4.41 | 21 ratings
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STEVIE WONDER Fulfillingness' First Finale Album Cover Fulfillingness' First Finale
STEVIE WONDER
4.46 | 10 ratings
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CURTIS MAYFIELD Curtis/Live! Album Cover Curtis/Live!
CURTIS MAYFIELD
4.79 | 3 ratings
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BOOKER T & THE MGS And Now! Album Cover And Now!
BOOKER T & THE MGS
4.71 | 3 ratings
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ISAAC HAYES Hot Buttered Soul Album Cover Hot Buttered Soul
ISAAC HAYES
4.37 | 9 ratings
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STEVIE WONDER Talking Book Album Cover Talking Book
STEVIE WONDER
4.32 | 11 ratings
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SADE (HELEN FOLASADE ADU) Diamond Life Album Cover Diamond Life
SADE (HELEN FOLASADE ADU)
4.38 | 6 ratings
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EARTH WIND & FIRE All 'n' All Album Cover All 'n' All
EARTH WIND & FIRE
4.29 | 8 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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rnb Music Reviews

ONENESS OF JUJU / PLUNKY & ONENESS / PLUNKY Bush Brothers & Space Rangers

Album · 1996 · RnB
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snobb
On the wave of the unfading popularity of African influenced jazz in England, UK-based label Strut continues their series of US funk-RnB bands from 70s Oneness Of Juju reissues. The band's debut, "African Rhythms", has been reissued by Strut in 2002, and in 2018 once again. Band's second album, "Space Jungle Luv"(originally from 1976), has been reissued by Strut in 2002 and 2021. "Bush Brothers & Space Rangers", chronologically the band's third recorded album, received its European reissue in 2022 for the first time ever (recorded in 1977, this album has been released for the first time in 1996 only, and reissued only once after - in 2002 in Japan).

Oneness of Juju were the mid-70s continuation of early 70s SF/NYC - based sax player James Plunky Branch's avant-garde jazz band Juju, who moved to Richmond, Virginia in late 1974 and switched the direction towards funk and RnB. Their debut album (still partially with old Juju line-up) under the new name, "African Rhythms", was critically acclaimed, and contained more commercially popular music for the time with a mix of funk and RnB with African-spiritual jazz elements.

For their third album, recorded two years later, the band adds guitarist Ras Mel Melvin Glover, drummer Tony Green (instead of Babatunde) and pianist Brian Jackson (both - from Gil Scott-Heron's band) and percussionist Okyerma Asante. As a result, they loose a bit of funky edge, but receive a more sophisticated sound.

The album's opener,"Breezin'", is probably better known from George Benson's instrumental version, but it's originally a Bobby Womack song, and it comes with vocals here, a nice dreamy relaxed RnB piece. "African Rhythms", Plunky's original, is represented here by a longer very percussive acoustic version, and it sounds even better then on the band's debut, one of the album's top tracks. "Nooky", another Plunky original, is placed somewhere between the band's earlier funk-jazz and the more polished RnB, with soloing sax on the front all the time.

Side B opens with an interesting example of an early "ecological" protest song, "Be About The Future". "Afro Beat" is a very percussive funky song. "Plastic (Is Easy To See Thru)" is another one of the album's top cuts, very much a George Clinton-like piece of P-funk. The album's closer, "Rhythms Timelessness", is a two minutes-long funky instrumental with lots of guitar soloing on the front.

Japanese P-Wine reissue for the first time presented 5 never before released bonuses, on the latest Strut reissue they are available as downloads. "West Wind" is a longish relaxed African-ballade with a flute, "All Blues" is a bluesy RnB with lot of sax and piano soloing and strong vocals, sounds a bit out of place here though. "The Stuff To Make You Move", is danceable RnB and the more funky, "Get Your Head Together", with male vocals, both don't add much to the album.

JOHNNY "GUITAR" WATSON A Real Mother For Ya

Album · 1977 · RnB
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js
You have to admit that “Real Mother For Ya” has a real mother of an album cover . Yes that’s Johnny’s mom pushing him in a baby carriage that has been made to look like a gold Rolls Royce, implying that young Johnny has grown up to do pretty well for himself in the music business, which indeed he did. Starting in the 50s, Watson was a star guitarist and vocalist in the blues world, especially in Houston where he was from. Moving out to LA, Johnny made the transition to a modern funk sound, and did so convincingly, scoring several big hits, while still maintaining much of his blues flavor. One such big hit was this album’s title track, with its humorous tales of ironic disappointment, rip-offs and plain bad luck. These are the kind of lyrics that anyone can relate to and Watson delivered them with plenty of funny asides in his distinctive twangy voice. The song became a real mover on the dance floor with its double heavy bass reinforced with a heavy analog synthesizer. As is typical for dance records, the title track comes first on side one so that DJs will have no problem finding it.

Sometimes albums like this, which are centered around a big hit, have nothing but filler after the hit passes, but the rest of “Real Mother” contains some well written and creatively produced tracks. Johnny covers all the bases on here, writing all the songs, playing all the instruments except horns and drums, and taking care of production as well. Watson is a great producer, different parts stand out and shimmer as he achieves great separation and clarity, and often puts some semi-psychedelic glitter on things. Johnny’s writing style combines blues, RnB, jazz and art pop, like a mix of Curtis Mayfield, The Ohio Players, The Crusaders and The Beatles. Some interesting tracks include the somewhat spacey, “Your Love is My Love”, on which Watson delivers all the vocals through a vocoder foreshadowing today’s frequent use of such vocals and, “I Wanna Thank You”, on which Johnny reveals he is just as good on the piano as he is on the guitar. “Nothing Left to be Desired” has a dreamy middle section on which Watson builds vocal layers over a jazzy chord progression. Johnny’s lyrics are never deep or heavy, but he delivers them with plenty of clever humor and spoken asides. Looking at the horn section, I see frequent Frank Zappa sideman Walt Fowler on trumpet. As many already know, Watson delivered some humorously over the top vocals on Zappa’s “One Size Fits All”.

SHEMEKIA COPELAND Uncivil War

Album · 2020 · RnB
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snobb
Shemekia Copeland is one among the brightest stars of modern blues in the states. Her music is deeply rooted in the blues tradition, but it sounds surprisingly fresh and modern at the same time. I'm a follower for some years, it's a bit pity that "Uncivil War" isn't as great as it could be.

Comparing it with her previous works, this album is faster, more groovy and significantly influenced by blues-rock. Shemekia's characteristic naïve but usually positivist lyrics are a question of taste, I don't really care much about it here. On the best numbers, her excellent vocals with lots of emotion is what takes listeners by storm. There are some truly exceptional guitarists on board, so songs like hot opener "Clotilda’s On Fire" or "Money Makes You Ugly" burn as hell. "Give God The Blues" is a clever reggae-ballade and "In The Dark" is dark night electric blues at it's best.

Main album's problem is that beside above mentioned strong numbers there are lot of fillers. Stones' "Under My Thumb" cover is probably the oddest one. Country scented "Uncivil War" and "Dirty Saint" aren't much better. Listening to this album again and again during the last few months, I just noticed that I'm listening actually to four or five songs from it on account of the others. It's still worth the attention because of its best songs.

GENE HARRIS AstralSignal

Album · 1974 · RnB
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js
In the early to mid 70s, many a jazz musician was drawn to both the growing impact of the new funk groove, as well as the psychedelic sound borne from the 60s. Gene Harris was no exception as his “AsrtralSignal” album from 1974 bears trademarks from that groovy early 70s era, which is also reflected in the very ‘cosmic’ title of the album. Gene Harris was no stranger to mixing jazz with dance rhythms, in fact his entire career was built around a solid reputation as one of the top soul jazz artists from the mid 50s until the 70s and beyond. With “AstralSignals”, Gene took things one step further from his gospel based roots to embrace the new funk style of Sly Stone and James Brown. On this funk foundation, Harris layered multiple horns, vocals and electronic instruments to build his imaginative arrangements.

The album opens with a heavily reverbed cosmic statement from Gene before we launch into an exotic instrumental topped with wordless vocals. Next up, a very funky synth intro leads the band into Sly Stone’s well known song chant about racial name calling. After a laid back instrumental with more wordless vocals, Harris closes out side one with some of his signature gospel riffs on the piano in a double tracked solo performance.

Side two kicks off with a rockin instrumental version of Credence’s “Green River”. On Chicago’s “Beginnings”, Gene handles the lead vocals and sheds some new tone colors on this well known number. This side closes out with some more funk-jazz jams with Harvey Mason’s “Higga Boom” being a real highlight. This album has its ups and downs, but the ups make it well worth it for fans of funk jazz, exotic lounge music, rare groove and other jazz related crate digging.

TAKUYA KURODA Fly Moon Die Soon

Album · 2020 · RnB
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snobb
Japanese jazz is traditionally accepted as an unorthodox deviation from predominantly Western (or being more precise - Western of African roots) genre. Still fans familiar with at least some of the Japanese scene know that there was an extremely creative period of time there lasting from the end of 60s and up to mid 70s, which gave to the international jazz world such artists as pianists Yosuke Yamashita, Masahiko Satoh or sax player Akira Sakata among others. Still, from the late 70s partially influenced by the wave of fusion popularity, Japanese jazz for decades became better known by its quantity than quality.

There are a few name players of world level there on the Japanese scene, incl. Satoko Fujii, fusion pianist Hiromi and still active Akira Sakata among others, but they are shamefully rare for one of the world's biggest jazz lover nations. And even more rare are brighter jazz artists coming from a younger generation.

With "Fly Moon Die Soon" Kobe-born forty year old trumpeter Takuya Kuroda makes a serious request to the A-list. New York-based from early 00'. Kuroda already released five albums before playing music ranging from hard bop to funk jazz and electronics. On "Fly Moon..." he brings all of his influences together mixing them in one stylish cocktail of old and new without plagiarism.

From the very first second of album's opener "Fade", the listener is invited to dreamy neo-soul with flying soloing trumpet and Corey King's vocals. Richly arranged and instrumented piece sounds as you're in 70s and in today's world at once."ABC" with horn section, African rhythms and funky groove is again something what comes from Earth Wind & Fire golden era, or today's vibrant London scenes.

Many pieces are funky, but not physically deep, more flat and electronically danceable, but that more modern sound is heavily influenced by the Moog, not 21st century electronics. Ohio Players "Sweet Sticky Thing" cover (with Russia-born singer Alina Engibaryan) sounds as brass-decorated pop-soul song. Herbie Hancock's "Tell Me a Bedtime Story", coming right after, will remind you the fusion of the late 60s and Miles Davis.

Title track is more nowadays music, with electronic rhythms, neo-soul vocals and Kuroda soloing trumpet over it. Being very versatile in genres, this album doesn't sound as an overly eclectic collection at all. Kuroda successfully mixes different influences to new music with respect to tradition and a touch of modernity. This album is for a much wider circle of listeners than just regular jazz fans, and one of the rare great releases from today's Japanese jazz.

* UK vinyl edition, released month or so later after original Japanese release contains one song less comparing with the Japan edition.

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