The Mastercuts label's great Classic Jazz-Funk series kicked off in 1991, and like the other volumes released throughout the '90s, the fourth 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. 4 are Deodato's "Whistle Bump" (a big underground disco crossover for very good reasons), Atmosfear's "Dancing in Outer Space" (a great spin on legendary Harlem disco producer Patrick Adams' uncompromising sound), Wally Badarou's "Chief Inspector" (a gem from the seasoned session keyboardist and occasional solo performer that stretches the series chronologically back up to the mid-'80s), and Weather Report's "Birdland" (the group's ultimate jazz fusion behemoth). Other songs from Arthur Adams, Chico Hamilton, the Brothers Johnson, and Tom Brown round out the disc. Despite the fact that not every song is a total knockout, the admirable Mastercuts folks still had plenty of goodness up their sleeves for the following volumes.
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman