The Mastercuts label's great Classic Jazz-Funk series kicked off in 1991, and like the other volumes released throughout the '90s, the seventh and final 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. 7 are "Valdez in the Country" by legend's legend Donny Hathaway, "Life Is Like a Samba" by a very young David Benoit, "Sweet Power You Embrace" by Roy Ayers' percussionist James Mason, "Black Is the Color" by Bob James associate Wilbert Longmire, "Deja Vu" by Brazilian percussionist Paulinho Da Costa, "Fifty Four" by Georgia fusion quartet Sea Level, and "Harlem Boys" by bop luminary Sonny Rollins. This one's all over the map in terms of quality and forms the final chapter of a series documenting a rather undervalued jazz offshoot. Despite the hit-and-miss nature of some of the volumes (and the fact that they leave out some bona fide classics), none of them are disposable.
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman