Various Artists

Classic Jazz-Funk, Vol. 3 [Mastercuts]

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The Mastercuts label's great Classic Jazz-Funk series kicked off in 1991, and like the other volumes released throughout the '90s, the third volume more or less concentrates on the '70s end of jazz-funk as opposed to the form's beginnings during the '60s. Jazz artists were incorporating more potent and often easily danceable backbeats and were also allowing for the R&B of the time to infiltrate their sound, causing purists to shriek in horror at the break from tradition and -- just as importantly -- the crossover appeal. Though this series was aimed at the rare groove crowd in the U.K. that was at full boil during the '90s, many of these cuts have always been valued in the underground clubs of the U.S. -- from David Mancuso's earliest New York Loft parties in the '70s and on through the gatherings that have featured roots-conscious house DJs from Chicago, Detroit, New York, and New Jersey. Not only that, but rap DJs have constantly visited the jazz-funk well for prime sample material. Featured on Classic Jazz-Funk, Vol. 3 are Herbie Hancock's "Saturday Night" (one of the gleaming examples of this series' "another person's trash is another person's treasure" modus operandi), Donald Byrd's "Love Has Come Around" (upper-register vocal bliss plus a steady mid-tempo dance beat), Bob James' "Westchester Lady" (a nice choice over the sampled-to-death "Nautilus"), and Kool & the Gang's "Summer Madness" (perhaps the most luscious anti-gravity soul ever recorded -- check the eight-minute live version for twice as much synth fireworks from Ronald Bell). Other songs from Aquarian Dream, Lenny White, Ramsey Lewis, and David Bendeth round out the disc. This volume takes care of the slight dip in quality on the second volume. Plenty to love.

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