The Meters – Rejuvenation

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When the Meters jumped from the Josie label to Reprise in 1972, their new label seemed intent on crossing them over to a wider audience. Released in 1974, Rejuvenation, the Meters’ second Reprise album, stands as the best of this period, with their core funk sound embellished with elements of rock and mainstream soul. The success of this album can be judged by the fact that six of these nine songs stayed fixed in the (Funky) Meters repertoire more than 25 years after they recorded them. Their version here of “Hey Pocky A-Way” stands as the song’s definitive reading, but tracks such as “People Say,” “Just Kissed My Baby” (featuring the contributions of Lowell George), “Jungle Man,” and “Africa” are career highlights as well, retaining the power of stripped-down funk while still fleshing out the sound with punchy horns, background singers, and a more rock-oriented production. These cuts don’t quite reach the level of the gloriously funky three-minute instrumental nuggets they made for Josie, but they come very close. –Marc Greilsamer

Tracklist

01. People Say
02. Love Is for Me
03. Just Kissed My Baby
04. What’cha Say
05. Jungle Man
06. Hey Pocky A-Way
07. It Ain’t No Use
08. Loving You Is on My Mind
09. Africa
10. People Say (single version)
11. Hey Pocky A-Way (single version)

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Roy Ayers – Ubiquity

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Roy Ayers’ leap to the Polydor label inaugurates his music’s evolution away from the more traditional jazz of his earlier Atlantic LPs toward the infectious, funk-inspired fusion that still divides critics and fans even decades after the fact. Although Ubiquity maintains one foot in Ayers’ hard bop origins, the record favors soulful grooves and sun-kissed textures that flirt openly and unapologetically with commercial tastes. Several cuts feature the male/female vocals that would become a hallmark of subsequent Ubiquity efforts, while mid-tempo instrumentals like “Pretty Brown Skin” and “The Painted Desert” feature evocatively cinematic arrangements and intriguing solos that unfurl like psychedelic freak flags. The crack supporting cast including bassist John Williams, keyboardist Harry Whitaker, and drummer Alphonso Mouzon proves equally effective on high-energy numbers like “Can You Dig It” and the Nat Adderley-penned “Hummin’ in the Sun,” which point the way to the mind-expanding funk Ayers would perfect across the sessions to follow. An outstanding record. (allmusic)

Tracklist

01. Pretty Brown Skin
02. Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head
03. I can’t Help Myself
04. Love
05. The Fuzz
06. Hummin’
07. Can You Dig It
08. Painted Desert
09. He Gives Us All His Love

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Nigeria 70: Lagos Jump

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Strut Records delve deeper into the Lagos underground for NIGERIA 70: LAGOS JUMP, another essential box of West African dynamite with the emphasis firmly on the dancefloor. From the heavy jazz of Peter King to Bola Johnson’s scratchy Afro funk and the rolling grooves of juju legend Sir Shina Peters, the album captures a rich and unique era in West African music. Compiled by leading Afro archivist Duncan Brooker and Strut’s Quinton Scott, NIGERIA 70: LAGOS JUMP forms another chapter in the rich musical background of Afric

For more info and buy check: www.strut-records.com

Tracklist

01. Sir Shina Peters & His International Stars – Yabis
02. Ify Jerry Krusade – Everybody Likes Something Good
03. Bola Johnson & His Easy Life Top Beats – Ezuku Buzo
04. Ashanti Afrika Jah – Onyame
05. Olufemi Ajasa & His New Nigerian Bros – Aiye Le
06. Peacocks Guitar Band – Eddie Quansa
07. Peter King – African Dialects
08. Dynamic Africana – Igbehin Lalayo Nta
09. Chief Checker – Ire Africa
10. Tony Tete Harbor & The Star Heaters of Nigeria – Tete Muo Bu Muo
11. The Faces – Tug Of War
12. Eric (Showboy) Akaeze & His Royal Ericos – Wetin De Watch Goat, Goat Dey Watcham
13. The Immortals – Hot Tears
14. Rex Williams – You Are My Heart
15. Sir Victor Uwaifo & His Melody Maestroes – Dododo (Ekassa No. 1)
16. Eddie Okwedy – Happy Survival

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Funkadelic – Maggot Brain

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Funkadelic was George Clinton’s chance to get serious. Unlike Parliament, Funkadelic exhibited topical lyrics and an almost heavy-metal edge, one that included screeching, distorted guitar and unsettling musical turns. This 1971 album, Funkadelic’s second release, catches the ensemble in its early prime. The Hendrix-inspired dramatics come courtesy of Eddie Hazel, while Bernie Worrell admirably handles the keyboard chores. Clinton’s humorous, sober lyrics address poverty, race relations, and drug use. Musically, the band covers lots of ground: Everything from smooth soul and heavy rock to abstract psychedelia and straight-on funky grooves has a place, and these jarring shifts are what make the album a revolutionary work.

Personnel: Eddie Hazel , Garry Shider, Tawl Ross (vocals, guitar); Bernie Worrell (vocals, keyboards); Clarence “Fuzzy” Haskins (vocals, drums); George Clinton , Grady Thomas, Raymond Davis, Calvin Simon (vocals); Billy “Bass” Nelson (bass instrument); Ramon Tiki Fulwood (drums).

Tracklist

01. Maggot Brain
02. Can You Get To That
03. Hit It And Quit It
04. You And Your Folks, Me And My Folks
05. Super Stupid
06. Back In Our Minds
07. Whole Lot Of BS
09. I Miss My Baby – US Music With Funkadelic
10. Maggot Brain (Alt Mix, Recorded 1971)

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Donald Byrd – Ethiopian Knights

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At about the same time that Miles Davis’ crew was populating the jazz world with their revolutionary fusion-isms, trumpeter Donald Byrd had returned from a trip to Africa and undergone an artistic epiphany. His Afrocentric explorations resulted in a number of beautiful albums, including 1971′s Ethiopian Knights, which postdated his incomparable hard bop work with the likes of Sonny Rollins and Pepper Adams, and landed just before his renowned album Blackbyrd and later ventures into radio-friendly R&B.

Ethiopian Knights stretches into experimental Bitche Brew territory with rock and soul-jazz rhythms, electronic keyboards, elastic structures and a battery of African percussion. Byrd employs a stellar line-up of West Coast jazz funkateers for these sessions, including the Jazz Crusaders’ Joe Sample and Wilton Felder, and Bobby Hutcherson with members of his band. The vibe here is loose and organic, with full doses of driving funk. Ethiopian Knights fills in an important chapter in the Donald Byrd story and makes for funky good listening. (cduniverse)

Personnel: Donald Byrd (trumpet); Harold Land (tenor saxophone); Thurman Green (trombone); Bobby Hutcherson (vibraphone); William Henderson III (acoustic & electric pianos); Joe Sample (organ); Don Peake, Greg Poree, David T. Walker (guitar); Wilton Felder (electric bass); Edward Greene (drums); Bobbye Porter Hall (congas, tambourine).

Tracklist

01. The Emperor
02. Jamie
03. The Little Rasti

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George Duke – I Love The Blues, She Heard My Cry

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George Duke has always been a musician who refused to limit himself to one style. I Love the Blues, She Heard My Cry music CDs Prior to I Love The Blues, which came out in 1975, Duke excelled in contexts both acoustic and electric, in straight-ahead jazz, arty rock (with Frank Zappa), and fusion. I Love the Blues, She Heard My Cry songs Blues finds him fronting an all-star lineup (Lee Ritenour, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, Flora Purim) in a set of fierce blues, soul/R&B, and rock songs (lead vocals by Duke) amid some nifty jazz-fusion instrumentals. I Love the Blues, She Heard My Cry album This set is recommended to listeners as musically diverse as Duke himself. (cduniverse)

Personnel: George Duke (vocals, Fender Rhodes piano, Clavinet, keyboards, ARP synthesizer, Moog synthesizer); Johnny “Guitar” Watson (vocals, guitar, background vocals); John Wittenberg (vocals, violin); Janet Ferguson Hoff, Flora Purim, Janet Fergusonhoff (vocals); Byron Miller (guitar, bass instrument); Daryl Stuermer, George Johnson , Lee Ritenour (guitar); Airto Moreira (berimbau, tambourine, percussion); Bruce Fowler (trombone); Ruth Underwood (marimba, percussion, gong); Emil Richards (marimba, percussion); Tom Fowler (bass instrument); Leon “Ndugu” Chancler (drums, percussion, gong, background vocals); Ndugu (drums); Roger Dollarhide, Donna Correa, Debra Fay, Chris Norris, Pat Norris, Patrick Norris, Larry Robinson (background vocals).

Tracklist

01. Chariot
02. Look Into Her Eyes
03. Sister Seren
04. That’s What She Said
05. Mashavu
06. Rokkinrowl
07. Prepare Yourself
08. Giant Child Within Us – Ego
09. Someday
10. I Love The Blues, She Heard My Cry

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Blue Break Beats Vol. 1-2-3-4

Blue Note released the 4 volumes of Blue Break Beats compilation in the ’90s. The music on Blue Break Beats dates from the late ’60s and early ’70s, when a large portion of Blue Note’s soul-jazz artists began experimenting with funk and rock, creating dense electric fusions that concentrated on rhythm, not improvisation. None of this music has ever received much critical praise from jazz purists, but in the late ’80s and early ’90s, scores of hip-hop and dance DJs discovered these old records and began sampling the original tracks to use in new rap and dance songs. This jazz-rap-funk fusion had become hip and profitable, which led Blue Note to assemble the Blue Break Beats compilations.

Blue Break Beats
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Tracklist

01. Richard Groove Holmes – Grooving With Mr G
02. Grant Green – Sookie Sookie
03. Lou Donaldson – Who’s Making Love
04. Donald Byrd – Weasil
05. Eddie Henderson – Kudu
06. Bobbi Humphrey – Harlem River Drive
07. Jimmy McGriff – Blue Juice
08. Grant Green – The Final Comedown
09. Lou Donaldson – Turtle Walk
10. The Three Sounds – Your Love Is Too Much
11. Donald Byrd – Blackjack
12. Herbie Hancock – Olilloqui Valley

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Blue Break Beats Vol. 2
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Tracklist

01. Donald Byrd – Street Lady
02. Bobbi Humphrey – Jasper Country Man
03. Eddie Henderson – Kumquat Kids
04. Gene Harris – Higga Boom
05. Reuben Wilson – Orange Peel
06. Jimmy McGriff – The Worm
07. Lou Donaldson – The Caterpillar
08. Grant Green – Ain’t It Funky Now
09. Bobby Hutcherson – Ummh
10. Blue Mitchell – Good Humour Man
11. Donald Byrd – Beale Street
12. Gerald Wilson – Viva Tirado

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Blue Break Beats Vol. 3
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Tracklist

01. Cannonball Adderley – Walk Tall
02. Lou Rawls – You’ve Made Me So Very Happy
03. Lou Donaldson – Ode to Billie Joe
04. Reuben Wilson – Sho’ Nuff Melon
05. Jeremy Steig – Howling for Judy
06. Shirley Bassey-The Doors – Light My Fire
07. Lou Donaldson – It’s Your Thing
08. The 3 Sounds – Put on Train
09. Gene Harris – Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey
10. Donald Byrd – (Fallin’ Like) Dominoes
11. Ronnie Foster – Mystic Brew
12. Joe Williams-Thad Jones – Get Out of My Life Woman
13. Duke Pearson – Ground Hog
14. Jackie McLean – Soul

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Blue Break Beats Vol. 4
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Tracklist

01. Gene Harris – Prelude
02. David Axelrod -Holy Thursday
03. The 3 Sounds – Sittin’ Duck
04. Buddy Rich – The Beat Goes On
05. Bob Dorough – Three Is a Magic Number
06. Banbara – Shack Up, Pt. 1-2
07. Sons – Boomp Boomp Chomp
08. Monk Higgins – Little Green Apples
09. Herbie Hancock – Bring Down the Birds
10. Ike & Tina Turner – Whole Lotta Love
11. The 3 Sounds – Repeat After Me
12. Eddie Henderson – Inside You
13. Marlena Shaw – Woman of the Ghetto
14. Paul Nero -This Is Soul

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Grant Green – Blue Breakbeats

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In the ’70s, guitarist Grant Green turned to an R&B and funk style in order to keep up with the times and invite as wide an audience as possible. At the time, critics cried foul at what they called “selling out” and disavowed Green from their critical radar. Fast forwarding to the ’90s, this period of Green’s career became in great demand as the “acid jazz” craze came into vogue. Blue Breakbeats collects some of Green’s more revered works from this period. These are the tracks that DJs constantly sample and loop to form new electronically manipulated works.

To be sure, the grooves here are gritty and the melodies, what little there are, are simple and brash, but the determined mood and downright funkiness is nothing to sneeze at. Cuts like James Brown’s “Ain’t It Funky Now” and the immensely popular “Sookie Sookie” are staples in any self-respecting DJ’s arsenal. The driving beats of Ben Dixon’s “Cantaloupe Woman” and the stunning “The Final Comedown” offer plenty of fertile sampling opportunities as well. Overall, though, this is a celebration of Green’s late-period talent that didn’t get its just desserts in his time. (cduniverse)

Personnel: Grant Green (guitar); Phil Bodner (woodwinds); Harold Vick (soprano saxophone); Claude Bartee, Jr. (tenor saxophone); Irwin “Marky” Markowitz, Marvin Stamm, Blue Mitchell (trumpet); Clarence Palmer, Emanuel Riggins (electric piano); Neal Creque, Ronnie Foster (organ); Richard Tee (keyboards); Billy Wooten, William Bivens (vibraphone); Chuck Rainey, Gordon Edwards , Jimmy Lewis (electric bass); Grady Tate, Idris Muhammad (drums); Ray Armando, Joseph Armstrong, Candido Camero (congas); Richard Landrum (bongos); Ralph MacDonald (percussion).

Tracklist

01. Ain’t Funky Now
02. Cantaloupe Woman
03. The Windjammer
04. Sookie, Sookie
05. Ease Back
06. The Final Comedown

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Joy Denalane – Maureen

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Born and raised in Berlin as the daughter of a German mother and a South African father, Joy Maureen Denalane has sung lyrics in various languages, including English and German as well as the South African languages Xhosa and Shangan. Although her stylish vocals and sounds are clearly influenced by artists ranging from Letta Mbulu to Lauryn Hill, her inspiration to do music, period, originates from hip-hop, especially that of female firebrands Salt-N-Pepa and Roxanne Shanté, which began seeping into Germany in the late ’80s.

“MAUREEN” is a skilful blend of all the elements that made Joy”s previous two albums (“Mamani” and “Born & Raised”) so unique: clear, direct and yet complex lyrics which strike the balance between being lyrical on one hand and effortlessly cool on the other, strong tracks and outstanding production which lies somewhere between modern soul, powerful funk and impressive hip-hop beats.

For more info and buy check: www.joydenalane.com

Tracklist

01. No More
02. Free
03. Time To Make a Change
04. Should Have Never (ft. Bilal)
05. Still Im a Woman
06. Where Do We Go
07. Picture Me
08. Steppin Up
09. Save a Little Love
10. Happiness
11. Roses
12. Roses
13. You Are Not The Only One
14. Chemical

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Parliament – Mothership Connection

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George Clinton was the leader of a collective of funk musicians in the 70s who mostly recorded under two names: Parliament and Funkadelic. Together they were known as the P-funk collective, or Parliament-Funkadelic. The collective included several defectors from James Brown’s backing bands – including Bootsy Collins, Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker – who would go on to successful solo careers. They were also well-known for their theatrical live shows, which involved spaceships, light-shows and outrageous costumes. The P-Funk musicians would become a huge influence on hip-hop, and artists like Prince and Rick James.

Parliament mostly recorded for Casablanca, and while Funkadelic had a rockier sound, Parliament went all-out deep funk, with horns, keyboards and the bass guitar featuring prominently. Their most acclaimed album is Mothership Connection.

Personnel: Bootsi Collins, Calvin Simon, Fuzzy Haskins, Gary Shider, George Clinton, Glen Goins, Grady Thomas, Ray Davis (vocals); Bootsie Collins, Gary Cooper, Jerome Brailey, Tiki Fulwood (drums); Bootsie Collins, Cordell Mosson (bass); Bootsie Collins, Gary Shider, Glen Goins, Michael Hampton (guitar); Boom, Freed Wesley, Joe Farrell, Macco Parker, Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker (horns).

Tracklist

01. P. Funk (Wants To Get Funked Up)
02. Mothership Connection (Star Child)
03. Unfunky UFO
04. Supergroovalisticprosifunkstication
05. Handcuffs
06. Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker)
07. Night Of The Thumpasorus Peoples

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Monk Higgins – Extra Soul Perception

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Extra Soul Perception is one of Monk Higgins’ better pieces of work. He starts off with a moody build up with the title track that has strings hovering in the background while the sax and guitar play a little bit over the top. That leads right into the excellent Soul-jazz piece called The Look Of Slim with a nice drum and bass intro before the head nodding rhythm comes in. It’s by far the best tune. Then there’s the light and upbeat A Good Thing, a nice re-arrangement of Watermelon Man, the slow groove of Straight Ahead, the 60s sound of Collision In Black, and Poker Chips that sounds a bit like a Prestige Soul-Jazz number. (soulstrut)

Personnel: Monk Higgins (tenor, organ); Jim Horn (flute); Miles Grayson (piano, percussion); Alan Estes (vibes, percussion); Dee Ervin (percussion, organ); John Guerin (drums); Bob West, Ron Brown (bass); Jerry Williams (conga); Thomas Scott, William Peterson (trumpet); David A. Duke (french horn).

Tracklist

01. Extra Soul Perception
02. The Look Of Slim
03. A Good Thing
04. Watermelon Man
05. Straight Ahead
06. Canadian Sunset
07. Collision In Black
08. Just Around The Corner
09. Little Green Apples
10. Poker Chips
11. Sittin’ Duck
12. Doing It To Deff

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Roy Ayers Ubiquity – Vibrations

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Whenever someone makes the transition from jazz instrumentalist to R&B singer, he/she is bound to be lambasted by jazz purists and denounced as a sellout. Roy Ayers was no exception — like George Benson, George Duke, and Patrice Rushen, Ayers was frequently attacked by jazz’s hardcore in the late ’70s for turning away from instrumental jazz and making vocal-oriented soul and funk his main focus. But what didn’t interest jazz snobs excited R&B lovers, who found a lot to admire about Vibrations and other Ayers albums from that period. This 1976 LP boasted the moody hit “Searching,” which has jazz overtones but is essentially an R&B song, and the title track which has become nothing less less than a funky soul classic. Ayers and his band Ubiquity are also quite appealing on gems that range from the sweaty, driving funk of “One Sweet Love to Remember,” “Moving Grooving,” “Higher,” and “Domelo (Give It to Me),” to mellow quiet storm numbers like “Baby, You Give Me a Feeling” and “Baby, I Need Your Love.” With Vibrations, Ayers reminded us that jazz’s loss was certainly soul/funk’s gain. (allmusic)

Tracklist

01. Domelo (Give It To Me)
02. Baby I Need Your Love
03. Higher
04. The Memory
05. Come Out and Play
06. Better Days
07. Searching
08. One Sweet Love To Remember
09. Vibrations
10. Moving Grooving
11. Baby You Give Me A Feeling

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Cymande – Promised Heights

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On their final LP for Janus Records, Cymande continues the heavy message theme of Second Time Round. “Pon de Dungle” is about the secrets of life and love articulated over a lazy beat. “Equatorial Forest” is a multifaceted tune with a lightning tempo and sliding, accentuating horns, while the Curtis Mayfield-ish “Brothers on the Slide” has some commercial appeal. The flavorful “Changes” is like viewing a good oil painting; the slow, moody instrumental has a meditating effect, and a soft, airy flute makes for an inconspicuous lead instrument. “Promised Heights,” the title cut, is strong, and should have done better for Cymande. It has the lilt and beauty of earlier sides, the horn work is sensational, and a nice sax solo scintillates. That same looping reggae beat is matched with meaningful lyrics and a positive, working-together theme on “Losing Ground.” “The Recluse” has a great hook (“When will all the lights go, will they leave the blackest night”) and features a nice romping beat spiced by sweeping horns. Cymande is a perfect example of music’s universal appeal; despite not knowing 70-percent of what they’re saying, you’re still drawn into the sounds. (allmusic)

Tracklist

01. Pon De Dungle
02. Equatorial Forest
03. Brothers On The Slide
04. Changes
05. Breezemen
06. Promised Heights
07. Losing Ground
08. Leavert
09. The Recluse
10. Sheshamani

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The Cactus Channel – Haptics

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Hear that sound? Raw, loose and nasty funk, recorded straight to analog tape. It’s just like the old days, but so new it’s sporting a badass teenage moustache. Now that Melbourne funk sensation The Cactus Channel have graduated high school, they’re taking their own brand of high-octane, instrumental car chase funk and smooth soundtrack soul to the people with their debut, Haptics. On the road and on the airwaves, 2012 is the year The Cactus Channel come of age.

For more info and buy check: www.hopestreetrecordings.com

Tracklist

01. Emanuel Ciccolini
02. The Colour Of Don Don
03. Derty D’s Thang
04. Budokan
05. Tom has Ideas
06. Level up
07. Boss Cat
08. Jungle Run
09. Under The Birdcage
10. Hot Teeth
11. Snap Kick That Fat Shit

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Donald Byrd – Black Byrd

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Purists howled with indignation when Donald Byrd released Black Byrd, a full-fledged foray into R&B that erupted into a popular phenomenon. Byrd was branded a sellout and a traitor to his hard bop credentials, especially after Black Byrd became the biggest-selling album in Blue Note history. What the elitists missed, though, was that Black Byrd was the moment when Byrd’s brand of fusion finally stepped out from under the shadow of his chief influence, Miles Davis, and found a distinctive voice of its own. Never before had a jazz musician embraced the celebratory sound and style of contemporary funk as fully as Byrd did here — not even Davis, whose dark, chaotic jungle-funk stood in sharp contrast to the bright, breezy, danceable music on Black Byrd. Byrd gives free rein to producer/arranger/composer Larry Mizell, who crafts a series of tightly focused, melodic pieces often indebted to the lengthier orchestrations of Isaac Hayes and Curtis Mayfield. They’re built on the most straightforward funk rhythms Byrd had yet tackled, and if the structures aren’t as loose or complex as his earlier fusion material, they make up for it with a funky sense of groove that’s damn near irresistible. Byrd’s solos are mostly melodic and in-the-pocket, but that allows the funk to take center stage. Sure, maybe the electric piano, sound effects, and Roger Glenn’s ubiquitous flute date the music somewhat, but that’s really part of its charm. Black Byrd was state-of-the-art for its time, and it set a new standard for all future jazz/R&B/funk fusions — of which there were many. Byrd would continue to refine this sound on equally essential albums like Street Lady and the fantastic Places and Spaces, but Black Byrd stands as his groundbreaking signature statement. (allmusic.com)

Personnel: Donald Byrd (vocals, trumpet, electric trumpet, flugelhorn); Fonce Mizell (vocals, trumpet); Freddie Perren (vocals, electric piano, synthesizer); Larry Mizell (vocals); David T. Walker, Dean Parks, Barney Perry (guitar); Allan Curtis Barnes (flute, oboe, saxophone); Roger Glenn (flute, saxophone); Joe Sample (piano, electric piano); Kevin Toney (piano); Chuck Rainey, Wilton Felder (electric bass); Harvey Mason, Sr. , Keith Killgo (drums); Perk Jacobs, Stephanie Spruill, Bobbye Hall, Bobbye Porter (percussion).

Tracklist

01. Flight Time
02. Black Byrd
03. Love’s So Far Away
04. Mr. Thomas
05. Sky High
06. Slop Jar Blues
07. Where Are We Going?

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Armando Trovaioli – Una Magnum Special per Tony Saitta

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Original soundtrack from the motion Picture Blazing Magnum (Una magnum special per Tony Saitta) composed by Armando Trovaioli. The thypical american cop movies sound with a great Orchestra and the orchestration in the style of the 70s will let you dive into the funkyest decade of the history! A great proof of the genious of the Maestro that gives evidence of his unearthly class.

Tracklist

01. Louise
02. Blazing Magnum
03. Black Pearl Necklace
04. Theme for a Murder
05. Who Killed Louise?
06. A Very Strange Party
07. Tony’s Back
08. A Weird Phone Call
09. The Puzzle is Completed
10. Identikit
11. Blind Suspence
12. The Story Concludes

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Bobby Hutcherson – San Francisco

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Bobby Hutcherson’s late-’60s partnership with tenor saxophonist Harold Land had always produced soulful results, but not until San Francisco did that translate into a literal flirtation with funk and rock. After watching several advanced post-bop sessions gather dust in the vaults, Hutcherson decided to experiment with his sound a bit, but San Francisco still doesn’t wind up the commercial jazz-funk extravaganza that purists might fear. Instead, Hutcherson and Land stake out a warm and engaging middle ground between muscular funk and Coltrane-style modality; in other words, they have their cake and eat it too. Joined by pianist/keyboardist Joe Sample (also of the Jazz Crusaders), acoustic/electric bassist John Williams, and drummer Mickey Roker, Hutcherson and Land cook up a series of spacious, breezy grooves that sound unlike any other record in the vibist’s discography (even his more commercial fusion sessions). The selections — all group-member originals — often skirt the edges of fusion, but rarely play it as expected; they might float some spare tradeoffs over a loping, heavy bass groove, throw in an oboe solo by Land, or — as on the slowest piece — keep time only with intermittently spaced piano chords. It’s all done with enough imagination and harmonic sophistication to achieve the rare feat of holding appeal for traditional jazz and rare-groove fans alike. It’s a shame Hutcherson didn’t explore this direction more, because San Francisco is not only one of his best albums, but also one of his most appealing and accessible. (allmusic.com)

Personnel: Bobby Hutcherson (vibraphone, marimba, percussion); Harold Land (tenor saxophone, flute, oboe); Joe Sample (piano, electric piano); Mickey Roker (drums); John Williams (bass).

Tracklist

01. Goin’ Down South
02. Prints Tie
03. Jazz
04. Ummh
05. Procession
06. A Night In Barcelona

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Bobbi Humphrey – Blacks And Blues

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Bobbi Humphrey scored her biggest hit with her third album Blacks and Blues, an utterly delightful jazz-funk classic that helped make her a sensation at Montreux. If it sounds a lot like Donald Byrd’s post-Black Byrd output, it’s no accident; brothers Larry and Fonce Mizell have their fingerprints all over the album, and as on their work with Byrd, Larry handles all the composing and most of the arranging and production duties. It certainly helps that the Mizells were hitting on all cylinders at this point in their careers, but Humphrey is the true star of the show; she actually grabs a good deal more solo space than Byrd did on his Mizell collaborations, and she claims a good deal of responsibility for the album’s light, airy charm. Her playing is indebted to Herbie Mann and, especially, Hubert Laws, but she has a more exclusive affinity for R&B and pop than even those two fusion-minded players, which is why she excels in this setting. Mizell is at the peak of his arranging powers, constructing dense grooves with lots of vintage synths, wah-wah guitars, and rhythmic interplay. Whether the funk runs hot or cool, Humphrey floats over the top with a near-inexhaustible supply of melodic ideas. She also makes her vocal debut on the album’s two ballads, “Just a Love Child” and “Baby’s Gone”; her voice is girlish but stronger than the genre standard, even the backing vocals by the Mizells and keyboardist Fred Perren. Overall, the album’s cumulative effect is like a soft summer breeze, perfect for beaches, barbecues, and cruising with the top down. (allmusic.com)

Peronnel: Bobbi Humphrey (flute, vocals); Chuck Rainey, Ron Brown (bass); Fonce Mizell (clavinet, trumpet, backing vocals); King Erison (congas); Harvey Mason (drums); Jerry Peters (electric piano); David T. Walker, John Rowin (guitar); Stephanie Spruill (percussion); Fred Perren (synthesizer, backing vocals); Larry Mizel (backing vocals).

Tracklist

01. Chicago, Damn
02. Harlem River Drive
03. Just A Love Child
04. Blacks and Blues
05. Jasper Country Man
06. Baby’s Gone

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Ronnie Foster – Cheshire Cat

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Reuniting Ronnie Foster with guitarist George Benson, who also produced the previous On the Avenue, the keyboardist’s final Blue Note date Cheshire Cat completes his immersion into the mainstream. Few records that fall into the soul-jazz genre balance both sides of the equation so carefully or so deftly. While Foster’s original compositions boast the harmonic complexity and structural rigorousness of jazz, Benson’s production is pure pop, with numbers including “Like a Child” sounding indistinguishable from the commercial soul fare making radio play lists during the mid-’70s. (A convincing cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Tuesday Heartbreak” further blurs the genre lines.) Expanding upon ideas first explored via On the Avenue, Foster again steps behind the microphone to handle vocal chores on several tracks, proving a fine if unspectacular singer. He remains most persuasive as a composer and instrumentalist, however, articulating the infectiousness and gradations of his music with clarity and aplomb. (allmusic)

Peronnel: Ronnie Foster (keyboards, vocals); George Benson (guitar, backing vocals); Gary King, William Allen (bass); James Mtume (congas, percussion); Dennis Davis (drums); Joe Beck (guitar).

Tracklist

01. Like A Child
02. Tuesday Hertbreak
03. Fly Away
04. Funky Motion
05. Cheshire Cat
06. Heartless

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Sola Rosa – Low and Behold, High and Beyond

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With six albums under his belt, a raft of accolades and well over a decade of producing genre-splitting music, Andrew Spraggon’s work as Sola Rosa has cemented him as one of the world’s most exciting and versatile producers. From a humble, self-released one man project, Sola Rosa has grown to a live collective of international repute. Successfully melding hip hop, reggae, jazz, latin, soul and funk, the group have never sat comfortably in one box, but with Spraggon’s guidance, that restlessness has been channelled into six succinct albums. With all that behind them, Sola Rosa are set to release their new album, Low and Behold, High and Beyond. Written over New Zealand’s past two summers, Spraggon has drawn together a host of familiar names and new faces, and produced an album that’s more beat-driven, but as always, tinged with his trademark soul and funk. Spikey Tee, Ben White, Matt Short and Julien Dyne have joined Spraggon to form the musical core of the group. While Olivier Daysoul, L.A. Mitchell, Ned Worboys and Miles Bonny all lend vocals to the project.

For more info and buy check: www.solarosa.com

Tracklist

01. Promise Ft. Olivier Daysoul
02. I’m Not That Guy Ft. Spikey Tee
03. Spinning Top Ft. L.A. Mitchell
04. Lions Den
05. Rise (The Machine) Ft. Spikey Tee
06. Misunderstood Ft. Miles Bonny
07. Real Life Ft. L.A. Mitchell
08. Wiggle Ft. Olivier Daysoul
09. Never Enough Ft. Ned Worboys
10. In My Dreams Ft. Spikey Tee
11. Loveless Ft. L.A. Mitchell

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