Best Soul Jazz albums

October 2, 2017

Soul Jazz Bands | List of Best

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Ben Webster
1957 [Verve]

As the title suggests, veteran tenor Ben Webster can rightly take some of the credit for laying the foundations of soul jazz. Here his seemingly unlikely teaming with the Oscar Peterson Trio works to perfection, with guitarist Herb Ellis sounding like he is having a ball. The CD includes three bonus tracks from the sessions not on the original LP.

The Sermon!
Jimmy Smith
1958 [Blue Note]

Jimmy Smith may not have created soul jazz, but he is certainly the artist most closely associated with it. This is a raw and energetic set from the Hammond's greatest hero. Hotshots in support include Lee Morgan, Art Blakey, Kenny Burrell and Lou Donaldson. Also worth checking out is the popular Back at the Chicken Shack from 1960.

Blowin' the Blues Away
Horace Silver
1959 [Blue Note]

Pianist Silver cut a host of fine albums for the Blue Note label. This one contains the soulful 'Sister Sadie' and the wonderfully serene 'Peace'. Blue Mitchell excels on trumpet, but there's not a bad note in sight throughout. This is well and truly a hard bop album, although there are enough funky grooves to prove it also has soul.

Back At the Chicken Shack
Jimmy Smith
1960 [Blue Note]

One of the great heroes of the Hammond, many regard this as the classic soul jazz record. Smith's trademark style involved playing the organ with a thumping bass line, chunky chords and blistering melodies. Combined with Stanley Turrentine's tenor and Kenny Burrell on guitar, the resulting sound is downright infectious.

Idle Moments
Grant Green
1963 [Blue Note]

Full of supple lines and flowing runs, this is guitarist Green's finest moment on record. Drug troubles probably contributed to Green's death in 1979 following a year-long bout with illness. Here, however, his music is fresh and vibrant - with support players Duke Pearson, Bobby Hutcherson and Joe Henderson making valuable contributions.

Larry Young
1965 [Blue Note]

On 1962's Groove Street organist Young sounded like just another one of a host of Jimmy Smith clones. By the time Unity was made he was charting a new course for the Hammond, while taking the first tentative steps towards integrating John Coltrane's free jazz mantra into soul. The record was also an important step towards fusion.

The Dynamic Duo
Jimmy Smith & Wes Montgomery
1966 [Verve]

It was always going to be groovin' good fun matching the Hammond's greatest hero, Jimmy Smith, with thumb-picking guitarist Wes Montgomery. Arranger Oliver Nelson brings his touch to 'Down by the Riverside' and 'Night Train', while elsewhere conga maestro Ray Barretto injects a Latin feel to some good ol' down-home blues.

The Inflated Tear
Roland Kirk
1968 [Atlantic]

Roland Kirk's (before he became 'Rahsaan') debut for Atlantic put him on the map as more than just a novelty sideshow. Known for his on-stage humour, political tirades, and the unique ability to play several instruments at once - the original compositions on this record showcased the sheer harmony and beauty of his music.

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