Deep jazz dig
Jazzman has put out some solid funk scene surveys in the past, but the new Spiritual Jazz double LP – documenting dazzling post-Coltrane indie label improv artifacts from the 60s and 70s – is the flat-out finest archival package the label has ever assembled. Having collected this stuff for years, I can say not only that the mostly uncomped selections are well chosen to represent the artists at their creative peak, but also that the transfers from rare vinyl sources are remarkably clean, and each track is thoughtfully annotated.
Even those familiar with the uplifting tracks by James Tatum and Ronnie Boykins or the cultural collisions pioneered by Salah Ragab and Lloyd Miller that are covered here will be impressed with the depth of the 12-track collection, which also includes more obscure but equally cookin’ pieces by Mor Thiam, Ndikho Xaba and the Ohio Penitentiary 511 Jazz Ensemble. Those faux mould sleeve stains are a very nice touch.
Back to New Orleans
The UK Soul Jazz label has finally followed up its fab New Orleans Funk collection with another diverse selection of hard-bumpin’ second-line struts from the Crescent City. As on the introductory set, there are loads of tracks by familiar names on Volume 2, including the Meters, Allen Toussaint, Earl King, Eddie Bo, Lee Dorsey, Art Neville, Benny Spellman, Betty Harris, etc., which won’t impress the hardcore collectors.
But Soul Jazz had the good sense to toss in a few lesser-known surprises out of left field, like the Prime Mates’ Hot Tamales, Joe Chopper’s Soul Pusher, Bonnie & Sheila’s You Keep Me Hangin’ On and Johnny Moore’s Haven’t I Been Good To You. The variation in sound quality between tracks is a bit unexpected for a Soul Jazz release, particularly since many of these tracks aren’t exceptionally rare. With a little effort, cleaner source material could’ve been tapped to avoid the unfortunate snap, crackle and pop.
There are no such sound quality issues with An England Story, Soul Jazz’s two-disc condensed 25-year history of MC culture in England, spanning the dancehall boom of the early 80s soundsystem days and the current state of the UK grime and dubstep scenes. Informative notes, including interviews with many of the key players, make for an excellent guide for those interested in following the path from Papa Levi to Roots Manuva.