The Blackbyrds

City Life

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The Blackbyrds -- a jazz-funk outfit formed in a university class taught by jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd, who produced the albums and wrote most of the tunes -- were more of an Earth, Wind & Fire-style horn band than a purist jazz crew, but few groups were better in their chosen style, and 1975's City Life is probably their best album. It's certainly their most successful, including the pop hit "Happy Music" and what has become their signature tune, a percolating Latin-flavored jam called "Rock Creek Park" that's one of the pinnacles of '70s jazz-funk. As on the bouncy title track, the lyrical content is minimal, a simple hypnotic chant, but the fluid interplay of the musicians, who are masters of the unison horn section and the polyrhythmic groove, is what's important about this music. Other highlights include the funky southern-style soul of "Hash and Eggs" and the lyrical ballad "Love So Fine." This is often-sublime stuff ripe for rediscovery by fans of '70s funk, soul, and fusion.

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