Various Artists

Jazz Funk Sessions

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Jazz and funk didn't bring out the best in each other, and there are often times in this two-CD anthology where it seems that the forms are not so much merging with each other as they are turning into disco. But for those who like the sound of the styles smoothing out each other's rough edges, this is a pretty wide-ranging compilation of the genre, encompassing both vocal and instrumental tracks. Covering the mid-'70s to the late '80s, it mixes pretty well-known artists (whether they specialized or dabbled in jazz-funk) -- Herbie Hancock, Gil Scott-Heron, Roy Ayers, Bob James, George Duke, Lonnie Liston Smith, Azymuth, Idris Muhammad, Level 42, Willie Bobo -- with names known more to collectors. Some of it's disappointingly conventional easygoing groove music of the sort that gives ammunition to those who claim that fusion destroyed jazz music. The better moments come when the tracks open up to admit goofy humor, dabs of other styles like Latin (Ingram's "Mi Sabrina Tequana [My Sister's Daughter]") and reggae (Disco Dub Band's cover of the O'Jays' "For the Love of Money"), and interesting effects. Dexter Wansel puts a science fiction spin into "Life on Mars" (as does Manzel on "Space Funk"), and Dinosaur L's seven-minute "Go Bang! (Francois K Edit)" has some particularly creative spaced-out vocal sparring and scatting. Gil Scott-Heron's "The Bottle" is one of the few items here that packs some authentic passion and intelligent, socially conscious lyrics into its punch. Otherwise it's more a smooth cocktail, albeit one that sometimes has a disco thump.

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