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Ray Charles and all that jazz!

Music Review: Ray Charles – Genius + Soul = Jazz (Expanded Edition)

The Ray Charles catalog is gradually being reissued and re-introduced to a new generation of music fans and some older ones who want to re-visit his music.

While he is best remembered as one of the premier rhythm and blues artists of his generation, he also issued a number of outstanding jazz albums during the course of his lengthy career. Genius + Soul = Jazz (Expanded Edition) has gathered four complete jazz albums onto this two disc release. His classic 1961 release Genius + Soul = Jazz, 1970’s My Kind Of Jazz, 1972’s My Kind Of Jazz II, and 1975’s My Kind Of Jazz Part Three have been digitally remastered and issued with extensive liner notes including those which were written for the original releases by Dick Katz and Quincy Jones.

The original 1961 release of Genius + Soul = Jazz is often overlooked as it was issued the year before his two monumental volumes of Modern Sounds In Country and Western Music. It was a major departure from the albums which he was producing at the time. He gathered the members of The Count Basie Orchestra to accompany him on organ and three vocals. The instrumentals have a jazz flavor while the vocal tracks fuse soul and jazz in a way that was unprecedented at the time.

The most memorable track is “One Mint Julip” which became a huge pop and R&B single hit. His pure soul vocal recorded with Count Basie’s sidemen in support is both unique and memorable. The other two vocal tracks, “I’ve Got News For You” and “I’m Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town,” were both R & B hits but his vocal travels in a blues direction.

The instrumental tracks are unique as he plays a Hammond organ rather than his usual piano. He blends beautifully with the brass on such tunes as “Birth Of The Blues,” “Strike Up The Band,” and “Stompin’ Room Only.”

His seventies jazz albums have rarely been in print and it is a treat to have the music available again. He surrounds himself with some of the finest jazz musicians of the day plus his own orchestra. He returns to his piano as the instrument of choice but it is his skill as the band leader which makes the music come alive. The rhythms and styles spread out in many directions; from a Latin beat to big band to even what one might call funky jazz.

My Kind Of Jazz contains "Booty Butt," which is one of the funkier compositions of his career. It may be a little out of place here but it's good fun. "Golden Boy" is a smooth rendition straight from Broadway while Horace Silver's "Senor Blues" is five minutes of Latin based bliss.

Jazz Number II is Ray Charles at his instrumental best. It features an eclectic group of jazz composers. Teddy Edwards "Brazilian Skies" and "Going Home," Thad Jones' "Kids Are Pretty People," and Luis Bonfa's "Morning Of Carnival" are all stand-outs.

My Kind Of Jazz Part 3 finds him being supported by his own Ray Charles Orchestra. Included are compositions by arranger Alf Clausen, Horace Silver, and a brilliant interpretaion of Duke Ellington's "I'm Gonna Go Fishin'" which is just a smooth ride. Interestingly the album would climb the R&B rather than the jazz charts.

Genius + Soul = Jazz (Expanded Edition) resurrects some of Ray Charles forgotten, unique, and best material. It proves that he was not only a rhythm & blues master but also a jazz genius. This reissue presents music that is an essential part of the Ray Charles legacy.

About David Bowling

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