Concord Records goes the distance with this two-disc reissue of Ray Charles' seminal 1961 album Genius + Soul = Jazz and his three '70s-vintage My Kind of Jazz albums in one package, all beautifully remastered. Genius + Soul = Jazz is a key album for a number of reasons. He leads the Count Basie Orchestra, whose members included Billy Mitchell, Frank Wess, Thad Jones, Philip “Bilbo” Guilbeau, and Freddie Green. The set was produced by Creed Taylor as the second release on ABC/Paramount's then-fledgling Impulse! imprint, recorded at Rudy Van Gelder's studio, and featured two different arrangers: Ralph Burns and Quincy Jones. To mark the occasion and push his own envelope, Charles plays Hammond B-3 on the set and sings on only two cuts: the swinging blues of “I’ve Got News for You” and another blues, the souled-out “I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town.” Another fascinating fact -- among many -- is that the set produced the first Impulse! single in Jones’ Latinized arrangement of the nugget “One Mint Julep.” Issued as Impulse! catalog number 200, it hit the top spot on the R&B chart and number eight in the Hot 100. The reading of Bobby Timmons' “Moanin’” is the most overt soul-jazz foray, while “Stompin’ Room Only” most closely approximates -- and makes use of -- the many strengths in the Basie band.
The three My Kind of Jazz albums were all released between 1970 and 1975. A lot of the material with these bands consisted of the stuff played before Charles made his entrance to the stage in concert. This doesn’t mean, however, that the music or the bands that played on these records were anything less than stellar. Musicians on the three volumes of My Kind of Jazz include Bobby Bryant, Blue Mitchell, Clifford Scott, Teddy Edwards, Jimmy Heath, Clifford Solomon, Glen Childress, Johnny Coles, Leroy Cooper, and James Clay. The material on the first My Kind of Jazz includes the single “Booty-Butt,” a Charles original, Edwards' “Angel City,” and Benny Golson's “I Remember Clifford.” The second disc in this set features My Kind of Jazz, Pt. 2 and Pt. 3, respectively. The first of these two albums has some killer rhythmic touches with the addition of Brazilian tunes done in Charles’ true groundbreaking style: Luiz Bonfá's “Morning of Carnival" and Edwards' “Brazilian Skies.” That said, the entire album features beautiful Afro-Latin, samba, and bossa rhythms. My Kind of Jazz, Pt. 3 focuses on charts that in their sophistication paid tribute to Duke Ellington's orchestras and asserted a slew of material in 3/4 time, proving that the waltz signature could still be used for hard-driving, soulful, progressive jazz. In sum, this set offers a near complete view of Charles’ inroads into big-band and soul-jazz in the '60s and '70s.