Soul music has had many permutations throughout American music history. The “soul” of Soul Summit isn’t the slick brand of the 1980s or even the neo-type leaving its mark today. This soul is the nasty kind, the kind that burns your ears. Your first clue is that Soul Summit is an aggregation of players assembled by producer Jason Miles, whose affinity for gritty music often in short supply these days is well documented. That said, Miles could have gone either of two ways with this CD—with a touch of slick in the studio, or live, where creative impulses are more likely to rise to the surface. He took the latter, as the 11 songs here were culled from a true summit of musical kings in 2007 at the Berks Jazz Festival.
Boasting the core of veteran jammers Reggie Young on guitar, drummer Steve Ferrone and bassist Bob Babbitt, Soul Summit of course offers a number of well-known tunes. Smooth-jazz sax god Richard Elliot goes mental on “Shotgun” and understated on Miles’ own “Chicken and Waffles,” while underrated vocalist Maysa shows her old-school Stax vibe on “What a Man” and with saxophonist Karl Denson on his “Can You Feel It?” Susan Tedeschi was the absolute right choice for “Son of a Preacher Man” and “It’s Raining,” her whiskey-soaked blues chops simply owning these tunes. Bluesy and soulful—yes, tons of soul—Soul Summit closes with a booty-shaking James Brown medley.
In addition to Miles on piano, Wurlitzer and vibes, this summit also featured vocalist Mike Mattison, guitarist Sherrod Barnes, trumpeters Barry Danielian and Tony Kadlek, saxophonist David Mann and background vocalist Emily Bindiger.