There’s something truly special about soul jazz. The hybrid form came to its peak of prominence in the ‘60s and 1970s, combining the accessible melodic values of gospel, the passion and sexy vibe of soul, and the instrumental chops and adventurousness of jazz. Giants of the from like Cannonball Adderley, Lou Donaldson, Grant Green, Les McCann and others built successful careers and enduring reputations by combining – if not the sacred and profane, then instead – the popular/commercial and musically substantial into something original.
Soul jazz came and went as a force in the marketplace, but its influence continues. While (too) many jazz players moved int soporific smooth jazz, others dialed up the funk and forged ahead. And so it is in late 2023 that we find ourselves with a copy of Roll the Tape, the new vinyl double-album from The Adam Deitch Quartet.
Combining the funkified modern-day sensibility of bands like the New Mastersounds with a tight horn section (saxophonist Ryan Zoidis and trumpeter Eric “Benny” Bloom), The Adam Deitch Quartet displays a keen understanding of what made (and makes) soul jazz worth experiencing.
Ten songs might not seem like a lot until one discovers than nearly every song clock in at over five minutes, with four of those each hovering around the seven-minute mark. Not a second is wasted, and like all great jazz musos, these musicians don’t repeat themselves. The music is rooted in the accessible – rather than obscure and knotty – traditions of jazz: state the head, build on it, tear off on flights of exploration, restate the head, and out.
The tasty-indeed “Mushroom Gravy” features a guest turn by John Scofield on guitar; here “Sco” sounds like he’s been a member of the group from Day One. Elsewhere, drummer Deitch and organist/Clavinet player Wil Blades hold down a funky, kinetic bottom end. The music thrills alluringly, conjuring in the best ways possible the sound and style of classic soul jazz records of years past. Yet in the process, The Adam Deitch Quartet never once sounds retro, dated or anachronistic. In their hands, the instruments, the melodies, the arrangements all sparkle with a timeless quality.
Highly, highly recommended to anyone who digs soul jazz, hard bop, funk or the like.