A whole new round of CTI reissues are about to hit record stores nationwide including this compilation album; CTI The Masters Collection Volume 2: The Soul Jazz Legacy.
There are cuts from 16 CTI artists including two by Stanley Turrentine. The first thing to discuss in this review is that this is not “soul jazz”, but “pop jazz”. If you pick this album up looking for the “soul jazz” of a Bobby Timmons or Ramsey Lewis you’ll be very disappointed. But if you’re into Seventies heavily stylized grooves or today’s acid jazz you’ll be in heaven.
My first impulse upon getting this two-disc set was to pay an old cousin Freddie Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jones Jr. (yep, that’s his real name) childhood home a visit.
He had an old truck camper he kept out in the yard by the family’s double wide. He ran an electric wire out to it to power a cheap K-mart stereo (he kept the expensive Pioneer rack system in his bedroom) and we used to hang out listening to Black Sabbath and Kiss records.
The camper was tricked out with lava lamps, shag carpet, and a whole cabinet full of his father’s girlie magazines we’d retrieved from the trash. I whiled awhile many a day smoking cigarettes with Freddie talking about all of the girls we knew and what we might do to them if we ever got them into the camper. I mainly just wanted some Seventies ambience while I listened to The Soul Jazz Legacy, but I came to my senses on the way over to the camper. This music should transcend the times it was recorded, otherwise what good is it? Plus, I bet Freddie’s camper is suffering from a severe case of dry rot by now.
Ray Baretto: “Pastime Paradise” – The Stevie Wonder song that Coolio appropriated for “Gangsta” Paradise” and then he got ticked off when Weird Al Yankovic did a parody; shame on him. This version features some hot guitar licks and nice sax work and really epitomizes the CTI “pop jazz” approach.
Esther Phillips: “Disposable Society” – Funky song and you can hear the scorn in Esther’s voice. This song holds up well and is still right on with its take on our culture of consumption.
Fuse One: “Double Steal” – Too many synthesizers, although I’m sure that’s the point. It sounds like game show or news magazine music. This is just rubbish threatening to turn into disco at any second. Real instruments seem like intruders.
Stanley Turrentine: “Storm” – Latin flavored intro, this is more jazz than pop with rough chunks of blues thrown in. Yet the song is still breezy.
Astrud Gilberto: “Brazilian Tapestry” – Just an awesome song. See my review of the whole album here.
George Benson: “Take Five” – Hey George, I like some of your stuff, but get your guitar away from this Paul Desmond composed Brubeck classic!
Idris Muhammad: “Hey Pocky A-Way” – It’s hard to go wrong with this Meters slice of funk and Idris treats it proper.
Hank Crawford: “I’ll Move You No Mountain” – The string section in the opening is cinematic, redolent of Seventies NYC graffiti trains get up and go all city. Jazz pop funk that is totally disposable when you get right down to it, but I bet Esther Phillips would approve. I know I do.
Johnny Hammond: “It’s Too Late” – When does the torture end? Less said the better.
Seawind: “He Loves You” – This has that Marvin Gaye “What’s Going On”, Terry Callier, Gil Scot-Heron vibe without any of their subtlety.
Milt Jackson: “I’m Not So Sure” – I love Bags’s older material, but this is just lame. Milt’s playing is okay, but the tune isn’t even up to the level of Three’s Company background music. I bet the character of Larry was rocking CTI jazz at his bachelor pad though.
Deodato: “Baubles, Bangles, and Beads” – The Latin flavor is definitely not a surprise. This one is too pop for me. I prefer his spacey sides better. There is a nice fuzzed out guitar.
Airto: “Flora’s Song” – Impressionistic hippie ____, really.
Freddie Hubbard: “Red Clay” – I really don’t know what to make of this tune, and I think I even used to have the record. It veers into territory close to free jazz at times.
Stanley Turrentine: “Pieces Of Dreams” – A commercial pop tune fattened up with Stanley’s saxophone.
Patti Austin: “Little Baby” – Patti’s a great singer and this is a good song.
Phil Upchurch/Tennyson Stephens: “Tell Me Something Good” – Stevie Wonder composed, nothing special really brought to it.
Nina Simone: “If You Pray Right” – Gospel hymn to end the proceedings.
Soul Jazz Legacy might be a misnomer, but it’s a good sampling of what’s to be reissued in the future. It’s a great release to get if you just want to get your feet wet in the CTI catalogue, plus it displays the obvious influence this music has had on the acid jazz scene of today.