The Mastercuts label's great Classic Jazz-Funk series kicked off in 1991, and like the other volumes released throughout the '90s, the fifth 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. 5 are Basia's "Freeze Thaw" (a classy slice from her Time & Tide album, as well as another cut that exists far outside the strict jazz-funk time frame), Ray Barretto's "La Cuna" (one of the better slick productions from Creed Taylor's assembly line at CTI), Grover Washington, Jr.'s "Sausalito" (at ten minutes, one of the saxophonist's lengthiest, most vibrant soul-jazz workouts), Roy Ayers' "Intro/The River Niger" (yet another Ayers pick that strays from the obvious), and Blue Feather's "Let's Funk Tonight" (a left-field choice from the Dutch group and a U.K. chart hit). All told, the fifth volume isn't one of the most solid in the series.
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman