VARIOUS: The Soul Of Smooth Jazz (Label: Jazz FM)

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VARIOUS: The Soul Of Smooth Jazz

The re-vitalized Jazz FM goes from strength to strength – pulling in more listeners, consolidating its presenter base with a roster of credible names and continuing with its excellent series of chameleon-branded compilation albums that offer a snapshot of the station’s programming. This new double CD, 30-tracker – compiled by Steve Quirk and Ralph Tee – is particularly strong, focusing, as it does, on the more soulful side of the broadcaster’s output. Now, Jazz FM listeners will know that by “soul” they don’t mean classic, chest-beating, rough-round-the-edges, emotion-stripping music; rather, they define it as something a little more urbane, sophisticated – and, naturally, smooth… the foundation of what is defined by many as “modern soul” if you would … and the many who follow that creed will find loads to praise here. As with most Jazz FM compilations, here the musical trawl net has been cast wide to pull in music that’s brand new alongside stuff that goes back as far as the 1980s. From that seemingly ancient decade comes Lesette Wilson’s bouncy ‘Caveman Boogie’ and Lonnie Hill’s still sublime ‘Galveston Bay’ while the 90s are represented by cuts like The Jazz Steppers’ ‘Samba For Dais’, Ray Gaskins’ ‘Shady Lady’, Nicholas Bearde’s ‘Can We Pretend’, Niteflyte’s ‘Company’ and Arnold McCuller’s ‘You Can’t Go Back’. It’s the so-called noughties though that provides the bulk of the tunes and there’s so much good stuff that to cherry-pick highlights is impossible, but personal favourites include U’Nam’s take on ‘Street Life’, Bob Baldwin’s ‘For You’, Brigitte’s ‘Star’ and the Linn Segolosn-vocalised ‘Troubled Times’ – always a standout on Steve Harvey’s ‘Everyday People Project’. That leaves a smattering of brand new stuff of which Victor Hayne’s sultry ‘You Won’t Make Me Cry’ is superb, while Gianna’s ‘My Everything’ uses just the right amount of the O’Jays ‘Used Ta Be My Girl’ to make it a potential modern soul classic. As a bonus Damon Cooper’s 2004 Booker T-produced ‘Will You Be My Lady’ becomes easily accessible for the first time. An excellent modern soul set, this, and proof as to why Jazz FM is leaving its so-called radio competitors way behind.
(BB) 4/5