Styles & Forms | Soul Jazz

Soul jazz stood out from other previous jazz forms. Its melodies were simpler and more rhythmic compared to hard bop, and influences from gospel and R&B were evident. In more traditional jazz forms, soloists would follow walking basslines or metric cymbal rhythms. In soul jazz, they followed a whole groove, which encouraged a different style of phrasing.

Soul jazz, also known as jazz-funk, can be traced back as far as the early 1950s, when Horace Silver was writing groovy jazz numbers for his now famous trio. One of their recordings, Horace Silver Trio & Art Blakey (1952), featured one of the earliest recorded jazz-funk tunes, ‘Opus de Funk’, which even helped to name the emerging style. The much celebrated hard-bop classic, Horace Silver And The Jazz Messengers (1954), also boasts a couple of funky little numbers, including ‘The Preacher’, one of Silver’s most well-known tunes.

The music developed during the 1960s and 1970s within both the jazz and soul music fraternities, although the more modern sounds of fusion and smooth jazz were to overshadow it by the 1980s.

King Of The Organ

One of the first musicians to be associated with soul jazz was the legendary organist Jimmy Smith. Both of Jimmy’s parents played the piano, so it was not long before he did too; he worked with his father in clubs during the 1940s and formed his own trio in 1955. His brand of ‘late night’ soul jazz met with almost instant success, and albums such as Home Cookin’ (1958), Back At The Chicken Shack (1960) and Bashin’ (1962) inspired countless other Hammond B3 maestros, including ‘Brother’ Jack McDuff, Jimmy McGriff, Richard ‘Groove’ Holmes and Big John Patten. Smith’s influence also extended to many major figures in rock and pop, including Steve Winwood, John Mayall, Georgie Fame, Brian Auges and Jon Lord of Deep Purple. After a string of hits in the 1960s, he went off the boil and recorded a series of unremarkable albums in the 1970s and 1980s. By then, though, his reputation as an influential pioneer of soul-jazz organ was assured.

Another soul jazz pioneer was the saxophonist Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley. Nicknamed ‘Cannibal’ at school because of his capacious liking for food, Julian changed this to ‘Cannonball’ during his early jazz years. He directed a local high school band during the early 1950s, formed his own jazz combo in 1956, and signed to Riverside Records in 1958. They produced a series of albums, often live, that contributed greatly to the soul jazz style. The first of these, Somethin’ Else (1958), featured the legendary trumpeter Miles Davis as a sideman. In turn, Cannonball played alto sax on Miles’s universally acclaimed Kind Of Blue (1959). The most influential Adderley soul jazz recordings were made a few years later, with keyboardist Joe Zawinul in the band; Jazz Workshop Revisited (1963) spawned a soul jazz classic in ‘Mercy, Mercy, Mercy’, penned by Zawinul. The keyboard player’s...

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Source: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music, general editor Paul Du Noyer


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