Saturnalia: Deep Jazz for Long Nights, 1969-1980

The days are growing shorter and the holidays are upon us. And before long, you might find yourself with a house full of friends, family and neighbors. In a perfect world, your dearest relations have the same expansive, searching taste in music that you do. But here on earth, you’re hard pressed to find a single one among them to whom you might willingly cede control of the stereo. Let them mix drinks. Let them tend the fire. They can even keep an eye on the roast. But it’s your house, you pick the tunes.

In the interest of making your lives slightly easier this season, and in the spirit of our previous dives into the intercontinental electric jazz underground, we put together a compilation of rare groovers to spin for a house full of people—people who, we assume, do not read Aquarium Drunkard regularly. Press play and let it go. One less thing to worry about. No seismic fusion here; no weird Teutonic incantations. We returned to the golden era of electrified jazz, with a mind toward keeping it tight and groovy. That is not to say featherweight or crassly commercial, but simply deep and funky jazz that the whole family can enjoy. Flutes and Fender Rhodes abound. The guitars are trim and limber. The synthesizers are tasteful. The rhythms undeniable. There’s a few pop covers here and some lesser known interpretations of modern jazz standards. In the season of goodwill toward mankind, we kept the mix appropriately global: France, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, Finland, Guadeloupe, Belgium, Brazil, the United States and elsewhere. We tried to find that sweet spot where those paying attention bop along, while those otherwise preoccupied don’t object. You might even turn on an aunt or a cousin when they ask what’s on the hi-fi. Your stoner uncle will nod knowingly.

There’s no grand historical thesis here. We just wanted music to shake a cocktail to, to make small talk with co-workers, to keep at bay the hideous culture war blow-ups poised to blacken our every attempt at sociability this holiday season. Perhaps we are being naïve. But everything on here smokes: the elegant lite funk exercises no less than the knottier fusion workouts. And we are, after all, idealists. We believe that, in the end, a killer soundtrack helps keep the darkness from all our doors. | b sirota

Download: Saturnalia: Deep Jazz for Long Nights, 1969-1980

George Benson, “So What”
Ahmad Jamal, “Superstition”
Donald Byrd, “The Loud Minority”
Cal Tjader, “Get Out of My Way”
Nathan Davis, “Stick Buddy”
Ramsey Lewis, “Sun Goddess”
Catalyst, “Ain’t It the Truth”
Bennie Maupin, “You Know the Deal”
Weather Report, “Cucumber Slumber”
Lost Peace, “Einzeiler”
Sir Edward, “People Make the World Go Round”
Walter Bishop, Jr. “Summertime”
Johnny ‘Hammond’ Smith, “It’s Too Late”
Joe Henderson, “Canyon Lady”
Placebo, “Balek”
The Awakening, “Brand New Feeling”
Volker Kriegel, “Zanzibar”
Kat-Tet, “Sky 2000”
Azymuth, “500 Miles High”
Psi, “Horizonte”
Annette Peacock, “Pony”
Ronald Snijders, “Seven Wings”
Harlem Pop Trotters, “Ring Modulator”
Hampton Hawes, “Don’t Pass Me By”
Kenny Barron, “Nothing to Fear”
Hiroshi Suzuki, “Walk Tall”
Frank Cunimondo Trio, “Chameleon”
Leroy Vinnegar, “Muffin Man”
Calvin Keys, “Aunt Lovey”
Heikki Sarmanto Quintet, “Jai Guru Dev”
Byard Lancaster, “Dogtown”
Harold Alexander, “Clean-Up”
Pucho and His Latin Soul Brothers, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”

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