Clifton’s Corner :: Volume Four / From Soul Jazz to Jazz Funk pt.1

(Welcome to the fourth installment of Clifton’s Corner. Every other week on the blog Clifton Weaver, aka DJ Soft Touch, will be sharing some of his favorite spins, old and new, in the worlds of soul, r&b, funk, psych and beyond. — AD)

One of the great things about doing these ‘Clifton’s Corner’ installments is the motivation and opportunity to dig deeper into my record collection. Sometimes, I discover new (to me) tracks that I’ve overlooked. Other times, I re-discover old favorites and get to indulge in a bit of nostalgia (rare for me). In the last installment, I wrote about the start of my love of jazz. The late 60s hybrid of soul and jazz was, for me, a gateway to the purer forms of the artform (hard bop, bebop, cool jazz, etc.). But even before ‘soul jazz’, I fell in love with the sounds of 70s jazz funk. Although it was often derided for how commercial it was, I feel like those records and that period was one of the last great bursts of creativity before jazz became codified with artists trying to recreate the bebop & hard bop sounds. Following on from that ‘soul jazz’ period where artists covered popular songs and mimicked popular soul rhythms, jazz took the funk influence and ran with it; creating a truly unique style. Piano and organ players such as Ramsey Lewis and Jimmy McGriff began experimenting with electric pianos and synths, often to the exclusion of their usual instruments. Electric bass and heavy percussion figured prominently into records too. These records were not as abstract as the fusion sound of Miles Davis and others but still featured the cerebral musicianship of classic jazz. Jazz was once again, funky, fun and most importantly, accessible. These sounds take me back to a time of sneaking into 21+ clubs to see my friends’ band, The Fall Of Reason, play live. They were a live hip hop group but often played acid jazz and rare groove nights. Seeing clubs packed with people grooving to these sounds made a huge impression much like the first time I went to soul clubs. There was a scene, a culture. The music was exciting, new (to me) and most importantly, not top 40 pop or typical dance club crap. Some of the records from the last installment hint at this 70s/80s jazz funk sound and some of these songs are closer to the 60s style but I was trying to give a glimpse of where the music headed as the decade progressed. There are covers, a contribution from a well known comedian who was also musically inclined and I’m sure a famous sample or two.

MP3: Cal Tjader :: Gimme Shelter
MP3: Ramsey Lewis :: Living For The City
MP3: Bill Cosby :: Bunions
MP3: Ronnie Laws :: Always There
MP3: Donald Byrd :: Caricatures
MP3: David ‘Fathead’ Newman :: Concrete Jungle
MP3: Bernard Wright :: Spinnin’
MP3: Freeez :: Southern Freeez


8 thoughts on “Clifton’s Corner :: Volume Four / From Soul Jazz to Jazz Funk pt.1

  1. I have been enjoying these Clifton’s Corner Links, thank you! I enjoyed your comments and feel like my path towards listening to jazz was somewhat similar to yours. Growing up in the late 80’s and early 90’s I was particulary influenced by hip hop records of the time which exposed me to jazz artists I probably would have never been exposed to in any other social context. Jimmy Smith, Groove Holmes, Lee Morgan and Grant Green were all artists I learned about through hip hop . Eventually my interest in soul-jazz records led me to explore be-bop, west coast, big bands and now, finally, I am opening up to jazz from the 70’s (I always was a bit wary of jazz produced in the 70’s) which has more of a fusion/r&b influence. Anyway great post, keep up the good work!

  2. Man, seriously digging Cal Tjader’s version of Gimme Shelter. Been looking to expand my jazz-funk and soul-jazz collection for some time now, so I’m glad I came across this article. At the moment, my soul and funk collection consists of little more than a few Herbie Hancock vinyls and some Bobby Womack. I dig jazz (Mingus, Gillespie, Miles, Coltrane et cetera), so delving deeper into jazz-funk and soul-jazz seems like an obvious progression. To pull a quote from Arnold Schwarzenegger: I’ll be back…

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