Various Artists

Soul Jazz [Universal Japan]

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This is a hip little jazz comp from Universal Japan. It contains 18 truly magnificent cuts from between 1968 and 1975 by Universal artists from various labels under the current aegis of the Verve Music Group, and walks the line equally between vocal and instrumental selections -- even though some of these titles in good conscience would fall under "jazz-funk" rather than the "soul-jazz" category. There are also some highly unusual -- but very welcome -- picks such as the Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland Big Band's reading of "Um Grão de Areia," the Peter Herbolzheimer Rhythm Combination & Brass' fine version of "Jive Samba," and Wolfgang Dauner's take on "Cubano Chant." All of the aforementioned titles were originally on the MPS label, as was Monty Alexander's fine version of "Love and Happiness" (yes, the Al Green tune). But there is other material here that is well worth celebrating, such as Cal Tjader's "The Fakir," Willie Bobo's "Evil Ways," Nina Simone's "I'm Gonna Leave You," Ella Fitzgerald's bizarre reading of Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love," and Marcos Valle's beautiful "Crickets for Anamaria." Even though this is a tad on the pricey side, it's a killer comp and well worth owning.

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