The Mastercuts label's great Classic Jazz-Funk series kicked off in 1991, and like the remainder of volumes released in its wake throughout the '90s, the first volume more or less concentrates on the '70s end of jazz-funk, as opposed to the form's beginnings during the '60s. Jazz artists were incorporating more potent and often easily danceable backbeats and were also allowing for the R&B of the time to infiltrate their sound, causing purists to shriek in horror at the break from tradition and – just as importantly – the crossover appeal.
The most consistently enticing disc in the Rock Instrumental Classics series, this is both a great party and driving record and a window on the rhythms that powered soul music in the '60s (and early '70s, in two cases). In addition to some obvious choices (the four Booker T. & the MG's tracks, the Mar-Keys' "Last Night"), it also offers some left-field picks, such as the varied approaches to Latin music offered by Ray Barretto, Mongo Santamaria, and El Chicano. The stock of virtuoso performances here is all but endless: the bass-and-drums breakdown on Cliff Nobles and Co.'s "The Horse," the glinting guitar solo on the Bar-Kays' "Soul Finger," Hugh Masekela's questing trumpet on "Grazing in the Grass".
The original Chico Hamilton Quintet was one of the last significant West Coast jazz bands of the cool era. Consisting of Buddy Collette on reeds (flute, clarinet, alto, and tenor), guitarist Jim Hall, bassist Carson Smith, and the drummer/leader, the most distinctive element in the group's identity was cellist Fred Katz. The band could play quite softly, blending together elements of bop and classical music into their popular sound and occupying their own niche. This six-CD, limited-edition box set from 1997 starts off with a Hamilton drum solo from a 1954 performance with the Gerry Mulligan Quartet; it contains three full albums and many previously unreleased numbers) by the original Chico Hamilton band and also has quite a few titles from the second Hamilton group (which has Paul Horn and John Pisano in the places of Collette and Hall).
For many their first encounter with classical music will be through its use in films and this collection makes a fantastic entry point to this rich and diverse world. Helpfully all tracks list the films alongside the music, so there will be no doubt as to where the music is familiar from. Classical music has been used to memorable effect in films many times from Ride of the Valkyries in Apocalypse Now to Barber s Adagio in Platoon and from Also sprach Zarathustra in 2001: A Space Odyssey to Beethoven s Ninth in A Clockwork Orange. Occasionally, as in the case of Mozart s Piano Concerto No.21 used in Elvira Madigan, the film title has provided a lasting nickname for the music. All these favourites are included here.
With the stresses and strains of modern life to contend with, many turn to classical music for solace and this varied collection of over seven and a half hours of relaxing favorites is the perfect antidote to the pressures of modern life. The set is themed and starts with two CDs of choral music, many of which are vocal arrangements of familiar favorites. These are followed by CDs devoted respectfully to flute and harp, the classical guitar, piano and orchestral music. Those who enjoyed the 101 Adagios set will find much to enjoy here, and can be reassured that any duplication is kept to an absolute minimum and where it does occur, is in strikingly different arrangements. The artists at the helm of this relaxing journey include the choirs of King s College Cambridge and the New College Oxford, flautist William Bennett and harpist Marisa Robles, Pepe Romero, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Herbert von Karajan and Sir Georg Solti.