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Good funk jazz with some
not so good stuff

The theme of this series is what is known as soul or funk jazz, a school of music influenced by R&B (rhythm and blues) a.k.a. black rock-and-roll

Blue Break Beats Vol 3
Rs 125

I feel a lot less sure of doing the right thing when I criticise this album than I do with The Best of Donald Byrd, although the criticism here is going to be much less outright. I must have missed Volume 2 of this family, but Blue Break Beats (evidently what might be called Volume 1) was one of the series of Blue Note releases through HMV a decade ago on which I grew up, speaking jazz-wise. Volume 3 suffers in comparison with Volume 1, but that might just be a matter of my own somewhat puristic tastes.

The theme of this series is what is known as soul or funk jazz, a school of music influenced by R&B (rhythm and blues) a.k.a. black rock-and-roll. For the most part it shows a strong blues rather than a rock influence, but the line between R&B-tinged jazz and rock-tinged jazz is thin, which is why, as a rock non-fan, I found some tracks on this album not to my liking.

Thus, the electronic gimmickry on the guitar in Gene Harris's Don't call me nigger whitey put me off, as did Shirley Bassey's Light my fire, close to pure rock. Harris was a great exponent of funk jazz, and he does a good job on piano with Put on train, although once again a rock touch comes through, in the beat this time. There are a couple of ruinous vocals here as in the Byrd album, one on Lou Rawls's You've made me so happy and one on (who else?) Byrd's Dominoes. (Given his talent on the trumpet and his equally great talent for smothering it with silly singing, one can only say that the left hand doth not know what the right hand doth.)

But there are several good numbers. Two great alto saxophonists, both luminaries of the kind of funk with respectability in mainstream jazz, Cannonball Adderley and Lou Donaldson, give substance to the album with Walk tall and Ode to Billy Joe, although the outstanding feature of both numbers is the organ solos rather than the sax.

The electric organ, invented in the first half of the century as a compact substitute for the pipe organ for use in small black churches, soon became a staple of gospel music and from there moved into the blues and bluesy jazz. It's frequently found in funk jazz. On this album it appears on Sho' nuff melon, It's your thing (again Lou Donaldson, this time prominent on his alto sax), Get out of my life woman (by Joe Williams, famous for blues singing, but not funk, in the company of Count Basie), and Mystic brew.

And finally there's Jackie McLean on Soul, his alto sax, usually known for hard bop, and an unnamed pianist shining through a performance that a pretentious vocal couldn't ruin.


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