Here’s some good news for jazz collectors – just out is a new batch of vintage titles released as part of Blue Note’s ongoing ‘Rare Groove’ series. The current crop comprises six antique albums, all remastered at 24-bit resolution and presented on CD for the first time. Aficionados of ’70s fusion will want to check out ‘Fancy Dancer’ by female flautist, BOBBI HUMPRHEY. Cut in 1975 with Larry Mizell at the helm (and with clavinet-playing sibling, Fonce, leading a raft of top session cats, including Jerry Peters, Dorothy Ashby, Chuck Rainey and Harvey Mason), it possesses that inimitably smooth, classic Sky High Productions sound so beloved by Rare Groove anoraks. The killer cut is the Latin-inflected ‘Uno Esta’ although the breezy, funk-infused ‘The Trip’ and the propulsive title track run it close. Another top drawer fusion set – but cast in an altogether darker, edgy, Miles Davis-circa-‘Bitches Brew,’ hue – is ‘Heritage,’ by trumpeter EDDIE HENDERSON. The haunting mid-tempo opener, ‘Inside You,’ penned by James Mtume, is a classic fusion groove, juxtaposing lyrical nocturnal-sounding passages with sinewy, street-savvy funk. Listen out, too, for ‘Acuphuncture,’ a twitchy, spacey funk number, which sounds like an outtake from one of Herbie Hancock’s early ’70s LPs (that’s perhaps not surprising given that Paul Jackson and Mike Clark from Hancock’s Head Hunters group play on it). You’ll find a different kind of funk – more visceral and earthier – on ‘Set Us Free,’ a 1971 opus from Hammond organ hero, REUBEN WILSON. Arranged by the redoubtable Wade Marcus, it features a bigger group than the organist’s other Blue Note sides and presages his large ensemble work for Cadet a few years later. It opens with a funked-up, grits and gravy, rendering of Eddie Harris’s ‘Set Us Free’ – with saxophonist Jerome Richardson spotlighted – and also includes Wilson’s unusual take on Marvin Gaye’s ‘Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology),’ which features marimbas, swirling harps, quasi-operatic female vocals and a weird electronic-sounding instrument that uncannily resembles a Rolf Harris Stylophone. More typical of Wilson is the album’s closer, ‘Tom’s Thumb,’ a fierce-swinging, self-penned Hammond-led groove. Out of a different bag is ‘Howlin’ For Judy,’ a 1970 album by flautist JEREMY STEIG (who later ended up at Creed Taylor’s CTI label). It features Eddie Gomez on bass and percussionist, Don Alias. The lion’s share of the compositions are by the virtuoso Steig, although he includes a striking version of Miles Davis’s ‘Nardis.’ The final two titles in this ‘Rare Groove’ batch are by THE THREE SOUNDS, the soul- jazz trio led by pianist Gene Harris. ‘Elegant Soul’ is a solid and hugely enjoyable 9-track set from 1968 featuring production from Monk Higgins. In fact, it’s Higgins’ lush – as opposed to slushy – widescreen orchestrations that give this album its distinctive character and appeal. ‘Do It Right now’ with its gospel-influenced call-and-response cadences steals the show. Higgins and The Three Sounds showed even greater ambition on that album’s follow-up, 1969’s ‘Soul Symphony.’ The title track, penned by Higgins, is an extended piece for jazz trio and orchestra (there’s also room for soulful female background vocals) that over the course of 25 minutes explores a variety of musical moods and gets pretty funky in places. It veers more towards the easy listening category in its effect but that shouldn’t detract from the album’s musical value: it’s a very classy piece of ’60s soul-jazz. Overall, then, this is a fine and extremely varied clutch of reissues from Blue Note – and jazz connoisseurs, whatever their personal preferences or favourite tipple, will definitely find something of interest here to tantalise their musical taste buds.