This month we explore the cross-section of funk and jazz, when musicians like Dizzy Gillespie and Nancy Wilson went heavy on the groove.
This month, our host DJ Soul Sister digs off the beaten path in search of those tunes that expanded horizons and dared to do things a bit differently with the funk template, adding jazz vocalizing, adventurous time signatures and bold arrangements.This show is inspired by artist Nicholas Payton’s writings on Black American Music (or #BAM), such as this and also this.
“I’ll Be There” - Stanley Turrentine (1982)
Tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine began his professional career in the 1950s, and even replaced John Coltrane in Earl Bostic’s group in 1953. Throughout the 1960s and ‘70s, he recorded for the Blue Note and CTI labels. This recording is from the album Home Again on Elektra Records.
“Use It (Don’t Abuse It)” - The Heath Brothers (1980)
Brothers Jimmy (tenor sax), Percy (bass), and Albert “Tootie” (drums) began performing in the 1940s, and first recorded under their family group moniker in 1976. Percy previously played with Dizzy Gillespie’s Big Band and the Modern Jazz Quartet, and Tootie performed with Herbie Hancock in the late 60s-early 70s. Jimmy’s son Mtume produced this track, and made a name for himself as a percussionist with Miles Davis; as a producer and songwriter of hits by Phyllis Hyman (“You Know How to Love Me”), Stephanie Mills (“Never Knew Love Like this Before”), and Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway (“Back Together Again”); and as a bandleader and chart-topping R&B recording artist (“Juicy,” 1983).
“Life, Love and Harmony” - Nancy Wilson (1979)
Grammy-winning vocalist Nancy Wilson released her first album in 1960 and found success with her solo recordings and collaborations with saxophonist Cannonball Adderley. She dabbled in R&B-styled recordings throughout the 1970s, and closed out the decade with this disco-fueled cut.
“Fantasy” - Buddy Rich Band (1981)
Jewish-American drum virtuoso Buddy Rich began his professional career as child entertainer “Baby Traps – the Drum Wonder.” He performed with artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, and Charlie Parker in the 1950s. He was notable for leading his own big bands, and this big band feature showcases their version of the popular 1977 song by Earth, Wind & Fire.
“Slick Eddie” - Sonny Stitt (1975)
From the 1940s through 1960s, saxophonist Sonny Stitt performed with everyone from Billy Eckstine and Dexter Gordon to Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie. This tracks opens Never Can Say Goodbye, released on Cadet Records, the jazz subsidiary of Chess Records.
“Touchdown” - Freddie Hubbard (1981)
Grammy-winning trumpeter Freddie Hubbard released his first recording as a bandleader in 1960 with Blue Note Records. Through the decade, he performed and collaborated with artists such as Wayne Shorter, Art Blakey, and Herbie Hancock. He achieved his greatest successes in the 1970s with several fusion-inspired albums for CTI Records. This cut, heavily inspired by modern R&B and dance music, features vocalist and Sylvester associate Jeanie Tracy.
“I Love Music” - David Newman (1976)
Though saxophonist and flutist David “Fathead” Newman is well respected in the jazz canon, he achieved legend status early in his career as a sideman on classic 1950s and 1960s recordings by R&B pioneer Ray Charles. In the 1970s, he often crossed over to funk sounds, recording with artists such as Roy Ayers and Black Heat. This is his disco-inspired version of The O’Jays’ 1975 hit single.
“Feels So Good” - Lena Horne (1971)
Actress, Grammy-winning vocalist, and political activist Lena Horne was acclaimed for her appearance in the 1943 film Stormy Weather, singing the movie’s title song. Her recording career began in 1942. This song, composed by percussionist Ralph MacDonald and songwriter William Salter, was covered in 1975 as an instrumental by saxophonist Grover Washington Jr.
“Dance Again” - Les McCann (1979)
Pianist Les McCann found great success as a collaborator with saxophonist Eddie Harris in the 1960s. By the end of the decade, he was integrating his vocals more into his music. And in the 1970s, he began to prefer using the electric keyboard instead of the acoustic piano. This cut, which primarily features McCann’s vocals, is produced and co-written by Jeffrey Osborne, then a member of the popular R&B group LTD.
“Incantation” - Dizzy Gillespie (w/Lalo Schifrin) (1977)
Legendary trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and famed composer Lalo Schifrin first collaborated in 1962 with the big band album, The New Continent. This song comes from the pair’s reunion album, Free Ride, filled with dance funk numbers played by an all-star cast of musicians including guitarists Ray Parker Jr. and Wah Wah Watson, bassist Wilton Felder of The Crusaders, and also Schifrin on keyboards. A few years later, Gillespie would play a guest solo on Stevie Wonder’s 1982 hit, “Do I Do.”
“Sweet Rain” - Dee Dee Bridgewater (1978)
Grammy-winning vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater began her professional career in the early 1970s, recording and performing with Sonny Rollins, Max Roach, Dexter Gordon, and Roy Ayers, to name a few. She won a Tony Award in 1975 for her role as Glinda the Good Witch in the Broadway run of The Wiz musical. This song is from her third album, Just Family (Elektra Records), which was produced by bass virtuoso Stanley Clarke, and also features musicians such as George Duke, Chick Corea, and Harvey Mason Sr.
“Can’t Get Enough” - Jimmy Smith (1974)
Organist Jimmy Smith began his busy recording career in the 1950s. His 1972 live album, Root Down, was sampled by the Beastie Boys on their 1995 EP of the same name. This song is from the first of only two albums released on Smith’s own label, Mojo Records.
“I’m Always Dancin’ to the Music” - Benny Golson (1978)
Composer and saxophonist enjoyed success writing jazz standards like “Killer Joe” and “I Remember Clifford” in the late 1950s, as well as composing music for TV shows such as MAS*H, The Partridge Family, and Mission: Impossible through the mid-1970s. This song, which was included on his album of the same name and released as a disco 12” single, has found a second life in contemporary music samples from Naughty by Nature (1999) and Ruff Revival (1994).
“Good Good Music” - Roy Ayers (1983)
Renowned vibraphonist/vocalist/producer/composer Roy Ayers was first inspired by jazz vibraphonist Lionel Hampton, and was featured in the 1960s in flutist Herbie Mann’s group. This song is from perhaps Ayers’ hardest to find release, Silver Vibrations, which was only issued in UK upon its original release on Uno Melodic Records. The album has since been reissued by BBE Music. He told interviewer Frank Chapman, “I have always played soul music.”
“You are My Sunshine” - Lou Donaldson (1976)
Alto saxophonist Lou Donaldson first recorded is own albums for Blue Note Records in 1952. By the late 1960s, his recordings were increasingly influenced by popular soul and R&B styles. This cut, an uptempo version of the original 1939 country music standard, is from the first of his only two releases for Cotillion Records.
”Inside You” – Eddie Henderson (1976)
Mentored by Miles Davis as a teenager, trumpeter and flugelhorn player Eddie Henderson came to prominence as a member of Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi group in the early 1970s. This song is from Henderson’s fourth album as a bandleader.
“Sweet Beginnings” - Marlena Shaw (1977)
Vocalist Marlena Shaw began her professional career in the 1960s, and sang with Count Basie’s big band in the late 1960s and early ‘70s. In 1972, she was the first female vocalist signed to Blue Note Records; her 1976 single, “It’s Better Than Walkin’ Out,” was the first 12” single released on Blue Note. This is the title track for her major label debut with Columbia Records, and it was co-written by Leon Ware, who co-produced and co-wrote Marvin Gaye’s classic I Want You album.
”Blackout” – Lionel Hampton (1977)
Vibraphonist Lionel Hampton was an acclaimed big band leader and orchestra leader, who even appeared in the 1936 Bing Crosby film, Pennies from Heaven. As the “first jazz vibraphonist,” his bands nurtured then-emerging stars like guitarist Wes Montgomery, vocalist Dinah Washington, saxophonist Dexter Gordon, and bassist Charles Mingus. He recorded several soul jazz albums for Brunswick Records in the early 1970s, and even issued Saturday Night Jazz Fever, featuring covers from the Saturday Night Fever disco soundtrack. This song is the title track from his album on the Who’s Who in Jazz label.
“The Chocolate Nuisance” - Cannonball Adderley (1971)
Saxophonist Cannonball Adderley’s noteworthy collaborations and creations include working with Miles Davis in the late 1950s, writing and performing on vocalist Nancy Wilson’s earliest hit recordings in the early 1960s, and having his own hit R&B song with “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” (1966). His late 1960s experimentations with electric instruments in jazz are argued to predate those by Miles Davis. This song is from The Black Messiah, which was recorded live in August 1971 at The Troubadour in Los Angeles.
“Welcome Sunrise” – Herbie Mann & Fire Island (1977)
Flutist Herbie Mann began his professional career in the late 1950s. By 1969, he was fusing soul sounds in his recordings and had a hit single and album with Memphis Underground. He produced and appeared on this disco-inspired album, which features contributions from Googie & Tom Coppola, the duo who were part of the Mann-produced jazz-rock group Air, who released its now sought after, self-titled album in 1971.
“Love for Sale” - Chet Baker (1977)
Trumpeter, flugelhorn player, and vocalist Chet Baker’s career took off in the 1950s as a member of the Gerry Mulligan Quartet before enjoying solo success. This 1977 recording, during his “comeback” period, is a cover of a 1930 Cole Porter standard, and features musicians such as Tony Williams (drums), John Scofield (electric guitar), Michael Brecker (tenor sax), Richard Beirach (electric piano), Ralph MacDonald (percussion), Ron Carter (acoustic bass), and Alphonso Johnson (electric bass programmed through a Moog synthesizer).