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Session drummer turns in steamy outing in lead role

Soul to Jazz II
Soul to Jazz II
By Bernard Purdie

ACT Jazz / Blue Jackel Records: 1997

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This review first appeared in the February 14, 1998 edition of the American Reporter.

Bernard Purdie isn't too well known outside the company of musicians. He's a well-regarded session drummer, though, one who played on many of Atlantic Records' 1960s soul and R&B hits. And in some ways, his new release – second in a series – is the ultimate session recording: low-key, smooth, tasteful.

As befits an outing from someone who's played on all kinds of dates, "Soul to Jazz II" is a seamless blend of jazz, soul, R&B, jump blues and pop. The compositions, too, span a variety of voices and styles: Covers of old blues and spirituals ("Joshua," "Amen," "Nobody Knows (The Trouble I've Seen)"), R&B standards ("Theme From 'Shaft'"), straight-ahead jazz (Stanley Turrentine's "La Place Street") and even an original from second drummer Jack Dejohnette.

The arrangements are pretty loose, with every song checking in at over 5 minutes. There's lots of improvisation, with Purdie and his rhythm section (Pancho Morales on percussion, Stanley Banks on bass) laying down a syncopated, swinging beat for the soloists to glide over.

And these are some pretty topflight soloists Purdie lined up: Junior Mance and Benny Green alternating on piano, Hank Crawford and Vincent Herring on alto sax, Turrentine on tenor sax and Cornell Dupree on guitar.

The result is a superb funk-jazz outing, in a vein similar to Ray Charles' early jazz sides.