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September 2005

Various Artists
New Thing!
Soul Jazz

Soul Jazz has built its rep on crate-digging some of the best in lost and classic reggae, Latin, soul, disco and funk, and putting them out in nice compilations with plenty of photos and informative liner notes. But the label has also delved into the groovier side of avant-jazz with comps that celebrate the Strata East and Tribe labels. With the double-disc New Thing!, Soul Jazz stretches from Sun Ra’s 1956 tune “Angels and Demons at Play” up to the Art Ensemble of Chicago’s 1984 piece “Funky AECO” to show that even the noisy avant-garde liked to get down sometimes—on the dance floor and in meditative thought.

On the soul side there’s Archie Shepp (1971’s “Money Blues, Part One”), Travis Biggs (1976’s “Tibetan Serenity”), Lloyd McNeil (1970’s “Home Rule”), Robert Rockwell III (1974’s “Androids”), Eddie Gale (1969’s “Black Rhythm Happening”), and Steve Davis (1969’s “Lalune Blanche”). Those on the inner-soul journeys include Amina Claudine Myers (1979’s “Have Mercy Upon Us), Paris Smith (1983’s “Pentatonia”), Rashied Ali and Frank Lowe (1972’s “Duo Exchange, Part 2”). Then there’s those who float between funky sounds and expansive vision, such as Hannibal and Sunrise Orchestra (1974’s “Forest Sunrise”), Stanley Cowell (1978’s “El Space-O”), East New York Ensemble of Music (1974’s “Little Sunflower”) and Alice Coltrane (1972’s “A Love Supreme”).

But the best track is Maulawi’s roiling “Street Rap,” which sounds like an outtake from On the Corner and includes staged chatter from potential explosive situations in the inner city.

Originally published in September 2005
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