Horace Silver at the Northsea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands, 1985Photograph by Rob Bogaerts
- Black Power/Pride
- Political Issues/Activism
The highly charged, gospel vocal stylings of Aretha Franklin, the driving rhythms of James Brown, and the mellow harmonies of the Impressions inspired new expressions in jazz, labeled “soul jazz.” Extending its roots from hard bop, soul jazz digs deeply into the spirit and flavor of gospel through its offspring, soul. Organists Jimmy Smith, with “Respect” and “Funky Broadway,” and Brother Jack McDuff with “A Change Is Gonna Come” and “Wade in the Water,” recorded many such songs that blend aspects of soul, jazz, rhythm and blues, and other African American folk traditions. At the same time, they and other soul jazz musicians remained anchored in the tradition of hard bop, performing that repertoire as well as their own compositions.
Context and History
The Black Power movement in the 1960s, in concert with the Civil Rights Movement, galvanized African American communities to social and political action. Jazz musicians contributed to this process, developing soul jazz out of hard bop. Songs by jazz musicians such as Ramsey Lewis with “The “In” Crowd” and “Wade in the Water,” “Cannonball” Adderley with “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” and Brother Jack McDuff with “Let My People Go,” could be heard blaring from car radios, stereo and 8-track recorders, and jukeboxes in public venues. The music was danceable and evoked a familiar sound.
Musical Features/Performance Style
Soul jazz, in contrast to hard bop, emphasizes melodic hooks and repetitive rhythmic grooves, including a bass line played in the syncopated tradition of rhythm and blues, as heard in “Cannonball” Adderley’s “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” (1966). As in hard bop, soloists follow the chord progressions, and the bass line—often played by an organist/pianist—maintains a strict four-to-the-bar walking bass line pattern. The musicians build their accompaniment around the bass line that flows under strong melodies played with a soul-inspired feeling.
Soul jazz is primarily an instrumental style. Although some soul jazz musicians include vocals in their repertoire, they assume a secondary place in the broader tradition.
- Gioia, Ted. The History of Jazz. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.