Jazz, with the backbeat of soul music and rock. At it's worst it was a dumbing-down of jazz (like soul jazz' modern-day suit-driven bastard offspring "smooth" jazz), since it relied on the less-complex harmonies and melodies of pop. But its success kept struggling indies like Blue Note Records afloat in the 60's (most releases had at least one "sell out" tune on them), and gave musicians like Herbie Hancock and Freddie Hubbard exposure to a wider, non-jazz, audience.

"Soul Jazz, with all its funk and fire, has brought a new feeling, a new passion, even if its roots are viewed by many as a linkage with traditional antiquity."
-- Dudley Williams, reviewer: Blue Note

Funky jazz, also called soul-jazz, jazz-funk, original funk, or just plain funk, is a form of jazz that originated in the mid-'50s. It is often played by small groups -- trios led by a tenor or alto sax, pianist or Hammond organ. Funk music is very physical, usually down and dirty.

Horace Silver considered by many to be the father of funk, describes funk: "Funky means earthy, blues-based. It may not be blues itself, but it has that down-home feel to it. Playing funky has nothing to do with style; it's an approach to playing..."Soul' is the same basically, but there's an added dimension of feeling and spirit to soul -- an in-depthness. A soulful player might be funky or he might not be."

The funk style emerged as a reaction to the cool jazz prevalent at the time. Funky music is everything that cool jazz is not: hot, sweaty, and never straying far from its blues roots. Fast-paced funk pieces have a bright melodic phrasing set against a hard, percussive dance rhythm. Funk ballads are never more than a few steps from the blues. Above all, this is dynamic, relaxin' music that is easy to listen to. Those of you who like blues and R&B, but find some jazz just a touch remote, will like funk. There is no better music to kick back to than this.

Perhaps the classic funk album is Jimmy Smith's Back At The Chicken Shack (Blue Note 46402) with Stanley Turrentine and Kenny Burrell Here is some of the best funk music ever recorded. Not only are Smith and Turrentine in top form, but guitarist Kenny Burrell makes this particular album a must-have. Smith's long-time drummer, Donald Bailey rounds out the quartet.

Another great funky jazz album is Kenny Burrell's Midnight Blue (Blue Note 84123) with Stanley Turrentine on tenor sax. Great listening!

Funky jazz artists include the later work of Gene Ammons, Charles Earland, Eddie Harris, Groove Holmes, Willis "Gator" Jackson, Les McCann, Brother Jack McDuff, Jimmy McGriff, Houston Person, Shirley Scott, Horace Silver, Johnny Hammond, Howard Roberts, and Bobby Timmons.

Published before on allmusic.com. Placed with permission.

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