Various Artists

Chips & Cheers: Blue Note Mix Tape, Vol. 1

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At EMI, the vaults of rare-groove specialties must go on for miles. Despite a worldwide phalanx of associated labels releasing compilations by the bucketload, they still find material to reissue, often for the first time and usually quite good. Chips & Cheers triumphs over its dicey theme and design to feature 14 tracks from the Blue Note/Pacific Jazz family of labels, from the '60s and '70s and not strictly limited to the usual suspects. Buddy Rich's big band starts things off with a bang ("Away We Go"), and the disc finds time not just for the more limpid of '70s jazz-funk titles, but also more big band numbers, Latin fusion, and brief hints of disco. Another excellent feature is a few well-chosen pop covers, led by "Yeh Yeh" by the finger-poppin' 3 Sounds, "Wack Wack" by Rich, and a pair of Bill Withers songs by Bobbi Humphrey. The highlight, though, belongs to Elvin Jones, whose "Currents/Pollen" (originally taken from The Prime Element) is a breezy summer samba taken at a strolling pace.

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