Various Artists

Funkin' the Ghetto [Ace]

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It's the vaults of Prestige that have been the focus of many soul-jazz and acid jazz reissues, but it should be realized that recordings in that style were being made all over the place. This smartly selected compilation of soul-jazz-funk-fusion done for Atlantic between 1967 and 1977 serves as evidence. Its focus is split between some of the more fusion-esque commercial efforts done by artists most known for straighter jazz (Roland Kirk, Mongo Santamaria, Eddie Harris, Yusef Lateef, Herbie Mann), R&B notables with jazz leanings (King Curtis, Donny Hathaway, Roy Ayers, Fred Wesley), and quite a number of obscure artists whose work is rarely, if ever, reissued (Lottie Golden, Southshore Commission, Natural Bridge Bunch, Clarence Wheeler, Black Heat, United 8). This isn't quite the best compilation of this sort of music, but it's pretty good, demonstrating that meshing jazz with wah-wah funk guitars and soulful organs (or the other way around) can make decent music. Still, it's closer to quality background party sounds than flights of inspiration. Highlights to consider include Roland Kirk's bouncy "Making Love After Hours," with a downright danceable jazz blues riff and rocking flute; Roy Ayers "Daddy Bug," which catches him at a point where he might have been more palatable to pop audiences than most vibists, but had yet to bleed into disco; and Natural Bridge Bunch's "Pig Snoots (Part 1)," with its ridiculously babyish, high-pitched female vocal chants. [This U.K. import is not available for sale in North America.]

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