Mon. Oct. 25, 2021

10 essential Jazz Funk classics

10 essential Jazz Funk classics… Like always, a selection is per definition limited, and God knows how the groove would definitely not have sounded the same without the regular experimentations which have paved its way… Such as back in the 70’s when Jazz came to integrate Funk, Soul or Disco along with analog synthesized sounds. As a result, many are the gems we couldn’t talk about here, even though they would definitely have deserved a mention.

10 essential Jazz Funk Classics
Roy Ayers

No need to say how this selection is way from being exhaustive. With a Part 2 but also a Part 3 in the series awaiting your appreication. Nevertheless, you should find thereafter a pretty much illustrative sample of highly energetic jams where the infectiousness of the groove predominates.

Wishing you’ll enjoy the ride as much as we did, while putting this together for you. With your feedback, and a mention of your favorite song more than welcome.

10 essential Jazz Funk classics / Herbie Hancock – Chameleon (Columbia)
One of the most significant compositions in the history of Jazz, with its instantly identifiable bassline being for much on its fame. By the reunion of Herbie Hancock, Harvey Mason, Paul Jackson and Bennie Maupin. From their 1975 ‘Head Hunters’ album. A cut given countless cover versions. From Maceo Parker or Maynard Ferguson to Sly Dunbar & Robbie Shakespeare. Not to mention the ultra rare ‘Kameleon’ by the likes of Polish director Henryk Debich and the Orkiestra PR I TV W Łodzi
10 essential Jazz Funk classics / Grover Washington, Jr. ‎– Mister Magic (Kudu)
By one of the inventors of the Smooth Jazz. One most likely remember late saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr. for the 1980 classic ‘Just The Two Of Us’ featuring Bill Withers. An artist who nevertheless reached one of his peaks back in 1975. This, with the release of his ‘Mister Magic’ album and its title cut. Featuring luminaries such as Bob James, Harvey Mason, Eric Gale and Ralph McDonald. A cut soon after followed by the magnetic ‘Knucklehead’. With both of them standing as his signature jams in the genre…
10 essential Jazz Funk classics / Lonnie Liston Smith And The Cosmic Echoes ‎– Expansions (Flying Dutchman/RCA)
Hailing from a family of musicians, Richmond, VA native Lonnie Liston Smith successively learnt piano, tuba, trumpet and voice in high school and college. Moving to New York, he then came to collaborate with many luminaries such as Roland Kirk and Art Blakey. Not to mention Pharoah Sanders, Gato Barbieri and Miles Davis. He then gave birth to his own group – Lonnie Liston Smith And The Cosmic Echoes – back in 1973. Fusing Jazz, Soul and Funk, with a repertoire full of classics in the genre. The 1975 released  ‘Expansions’ from his album of the likes, is one of his signature cuts. Sampled by countless artists including Monie Love on the Simon Dunmore‘s Touch Mix of ‘Down To Earth’, mixed together with Roy Ayers‘s ‘Hey Uh-What You Say Come On’…
10 essential Jazz Funk classics / Ronnie Laws – Always There (Blue Note)
Houston, TX native flautist/saxophonist Ronnie Laws who celebrated his 65th Birthday a few days ago (by the time writing this) came straight to fame with the release of ‘Pressure Sentive’. An album which marked his debut back in 1975, it features his biggest success ever – ‘Always There’. A standard which many artists covered. From Willie Bobo (on a Latin/Jazz tip) to the cosmic version of Wood, Brass & Steel. But also Side Effect vho added vocals to it. Then Incognito along with Jocelyn Brown. Not to mention Charvoni
10 essential Jazz Funk classics / Roy Ayers – Love Will Bring Us Back Together (Polydor)
One of the most sampled artists in the history of contemporary music, Los Angeles, CA-born vibraphonist, singer, songwriter and producer Roy Ayers is a major influence in terms of Jazz/Funk, Acid-Jazz, Disco, House and eventually Neo-Soul. His works are simply unique, often displaying infectious cosmic/psychedelic synth lines. With more than 1,000 recordings of his remaining unreleased to date as he explained me in a conversation we had more than 10 years ago. The title cut of his 1975 album of the likes (under his Roy Ayers Ubiquity guise) is one of his most significant successes ever. Sampled by Hip-Hop artists such as Brand Nubian or P.M. Dawn. But also Common and Mos Def. Not to mention Mary J. Blige
10 essential Jazz Funk classics / Freddie Hubbard – Little Sunflower (Columbia)
Primarily known for playing in the Bebop, Hard Bop and Post-Bop styles from the early 60’s onwards, the late American jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard would be later on heavily criticized for “commercialism” when coming to sign on Creed Taylor‘s CTI Records label. This is where he ironically got a bigger recognition though, with albums such as ‘Red Clay’ and ‘Sky Dive’.
Surrounded by luminaries such as Stanley Clarke on bass, Chick Corea on keyboards and Ernie Watts on saxophone, ‘Little Sunflower’, from his 1979 released ‘The Love Connection’ album, is one of the most beautiful compositions ever. As enlightened by the presence of Al Jarreau. The latter reachin’ one of his absolute peaks vocally speaking. A song later on sampled by French House producer Pépé Bradock on his classic ‘Deep Burnt’.
10 essential Jazz Funk classics / Azymuth – Dear Limmertz (Milestone)
The late Jose Roberto Bertrami (keyboards), Alex Malheiros (bass, guitars), and Ivan Conti (drums and percussion) formed Azymuth back in 1973. A Brazilian combo who most likely came to fame 6 years later with ‘Jazz Carnival’. They stand on an impressive repertoire that became much of an influence in the establishment of the Nu-Jazz period by the second half of the 90’s. This, with artists such as Jazzanova, and eventually Da Lata on a more traditional Latin-influenced mood. Released soon after ‘Jazz Carnival’ as a part of their ‘Outubro’ album, and although on a mellower tip, the Hammond driven vocoderized ‘Dear Limmertz’, built on one of those one of a kind basslines, is one of their highlights. Later on sampled by artists such as Ian Pooley (on a remix he did for… Jazzanova!) and Gramatik among others…
10 essential Jazz Funk classics / The Crusaders – Stomp And Buck Dance (ABC/Blue Thumb Records)
More of a Hard Bop group altough with an emphasis on Soul and R&B, Stix Hooper, Wayne Henderson , Joe Sample, and Wilton Felder. Three talents we better know as The Crusaders. The threesome progressively established themselves in the Jazz/Funk circuit by the beginning of the 70’s. They would reach one of their peaks with the syncopated ‘Stomp And Buck Dance’. A cut taken from their 1974 ‘Southern Comfort’ album, featuring Larry Carlton on guitar. Its firing bassline being notoriously used by Rapper Redman on ‘Let Da Monkey Out’ some 24 years after [More…]
10 essential Jazz Funk classics / Charles Earland – Let The Music Play (Mercury)
An American jazz composer, organist, and saxophonist, Phildelphia, PA native Charles Earland came to collaborate with Lou Donaldson by the end of the 60’s. Although responsible for an impressive list of albums on Prestige, he would get his peak time along with producer Randy Muller (Brass Construction, Skyy). The latter delivering the backing vocals on the cosmic synth Disco/Funk led ‘Let The Music Play’. From his 1978 ‘Perceptions’ album…
10 essential Jazz Funk classics / Jimmy Smith – Give Up The Booty (Mercury)
A Jazz organist who’s been for much in the popularization of the Hammond B-3 electric organ, Jimmy Smith happened to be quite prolific. He recorded more than 40 sessions for Blue Note before signing with Verve back in 1962. Eventually finding the time to collaborate with artists such as Lalo Schifrin and Wes Montgomery. But also George Benson, Stanley Turrentine and Lou Donaldson to name but a few. One of the most illustrative cuts as far as his incredible skills are about being the opening track of his 1977 ‘Sit On It! album, ‘Give Up The Booty’ and its characteristic wah-wah-ish rhythm guitar part melted with an infectious synth line serving as the foundations of this Horn led joint blended with a Bluesy male vocal part and female choirs. A model of psychedelism…

You might also like…
Pt. 2
10 essential Disco Jazz cuts…

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