Chicago Soul Jazz Collective: Soulophone (Self-released)

A review of the debut album from the talented sextet

Soulophone

The cover of Soulophone by Chicago Soul Jazz Collective

A common misnomer is that music with horns is jazz. Add horns to R&B rhythms, or to blues progressions, and it’s practically an automatic perception. Such is the case with the Chicago Soul Jazz Collective, a talented sextet that further skews jazz by having primarily acoustic instrumentalists (tenor saxophonist John Fournier, trumpeter Marques Carroll, pianist Amr Marcin Fahmy, bassist Andrew Vogt, drummer Keith Brooks) along with electric guitarist Kyle Asche on its debut CD, Soulophone.

The Chicago veterans formed to salute the city’s early-1960s “soul-jazz era” by recreating recordings by Ramsey Lewis, Herbie Hancock, and Stanley Turrentine. But Soulophone actually leans more toward Chicago’s ’60s soul sound—which rivaled Detroit’s Motown and Memphis’ Stax—and that, in essence, takes it more into the blues territory Chicago is best known for. Jimmy Smith’s opening “Prayer Meeting,” despite fine solos by Fournier, Carroll, and Asche and the best efforts of Fahmy on electric piano, is reduced to a blues shuffle without Smith’s gritty Hammond organ.

Turrentine’s “Soul Shoutin’” covers the same shuffling terrain, and Billy Page’s “The ‘In’ Crowd” breaks no new ground; it was likely included because Lewis and his trio crossed over onto the pop charts with their instrumental version 55 years ago, when such things were possible. “Wade in the Water,” the traditional gospel song once covered by Lewis, fares better, like many middle-to-latter selections. The common theme is the ensemble diverting from expected Chicago-related material. The ballad “Lotus Flower,” by French composer Pierre Chrétien, spotlights Fahmy on acoustic piano and harmonized lines by Fournier and Carroll, and Wayne Shorter’s closing standard “Adam’s Apple” boasts stellar solos and a dramatic late decrescendo.

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