Ray Charles: Genius + Soul = Jazz (Expanded Edition)

Four-LPs-on-two-CDs reissue of Ray Charles’ jazz sides

Ray Charles’ helped inaugurate the Impulse! label with this 1961 release, the label’s second album. Produced by Creed Taylor, and recorded in the same New Jersey studios that hosted Jimmy Smith and other Blue Note greats, Charles sat himself behind a Hammond B-3 and together with key members of the Count Basie band, he swung arrangements written by Quincy Jones and Ralph Burns. From the opening horn stabs of “From the Heart” it’s clear that this band plays big, brassy and hard, yet Charles keeps it cool on the organ, and his two vocal numbers (“I’ve Got News For You” and “I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town”), are blue and soulful. Charles gave the band and its soloists plenty of room to shine, but when his keys step to the front, such as his growling lead on “One Mint Julep,” it’s clear whose leading the sessions.

Concord’s two-CD reissue adds three albums that Charles recorded in the 1970s: My Kind of Jazz (1970), Jazz Number II (1972) and My Kind of Jazz Part 3 (1975). These are primarily instrumental albums and are filled with the sort of charts used to warm up audiences at Charles’ live shows. There is a generous helping of 3/4 jazz waltzes and Latin rhythms. Recorded with his road band, the lineup is filled with instrumental stars, including Blue Mitchell, Joe Randazzo, Clifford Scott, David “Fathead” Newman and many others. Highlights include the Stax-styled groove of “Booty-Butt” and a bubbly take on Lee Morgan’s “Sidewinder.” As an additional bonus, a cover of “Misty” is included from trombonist Steve Turre’s In the Spur of the Moment.

The recording quality is superb, with a super wide stereo image. Remastering is by Paul Blakemore at Telarc. The set’s 12-page booklet includes new liner notes by Ralph Friedwald, original album notes by Dick Katz and Quincy Jones, and full-panel cover reproductions. The original sessions show Charles at full power; the 1970s albums feature great playing, but often feel like pre-show warmups. If you already have Genius + Soul = Jazz in high fidelity, the upgrade may not be necessary, but if you haven’t yet enjoyed Charles’ 1961 classic, this is a great way to hear it. [©2010 hyperbolium dot com]

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