Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Disco Jazz

Disco lives! At least here, that is.

A great idea that, surprisingly, has yet to be picked up, acknowledged or exploited elsewhere, Disco Jazz combines 60s-era lounge instrumentalists with 70s-era disco instrumentalists, covering a variety of disco-oriented instrumentals that have a strong feel of jazz about them. Much of this music has never seen the light of day on CD and it’s a real pleasure to hear it collected and compiled so darned well.

Disco Jazz is part of Universal’s budget-priced Jazz Club series, which makes sense because not only was much of the music that fits this description made for Universal-owned labels like Polydor, ABC, Motown, 20th Century and Casablanca Records back in the day, but the best moments that could be considered “disco jazz” all appeared on Universal labels. Much of it is heard right here.

This collection, tastefully compiled by iconoclastic and retro-visionary producer Matthias K√ľnnecke, gathers 17 highlights of the “disco jazz” era, all of it recorded during disco’s high years, between 1975 and 1980. Some rare and highly collectable gems – of predominantly German descent – are to be found here, including a European 45 only cover of Herb Alpert’s “Rise” by James Last (recorded in 1979 in the US), “On The Road to Philadelphia” and “Salsoul Motion” by Kai Warner (James Last’s brother) and an exhilarating cover of Chuck Mangione’s excellent “Land of Make Believe,” recorded by Peter Thomas from a little-known disco album he cut in 1977.

I had the pleasure of suggesting a number of the disco nuggets that are included here, such as Rhythm Heritage’s riveting take on Duke Ellington’s “Caravan” (from the same album that yielded the group’s 1975 hit “Theme From S.W.A.T.”), James Last’s “Falling Star” (from one of his few American albums, 1980’s Seduction), Brass Fever’s bracing take on Gershwin’s “Summertime” (from the studio group’s second and final album, 1977’s Time Is Running Out), Patrick Williams’ “Come On And Shine” (1977) and Paul Mauriat’s disco redux of his worldwide hit “Love Is (Still) Blue” (1976). I also proposed Werner Baumgart’s invigorating “Long Island Sound” (1980) and Bert Kaempfert’s own take on Saturday Night Fever, “Keep on Dancing” (1979, from his last studio album, Smile). Unfortunately, my suggestion to include Meco’s ultra-funky take on the Classics IV’s “Spooky” from his 1979 Casablanca album Moondancer didn’t make the cut, so the producer replaced it with the album’s far more conventional title cut.

Elsewhere here is Love Unlimited Orchestra’s “Brazilian Love Song,” Rhythm Heritage’s “Dance The Night Away” and “Sky’s The Limit” (both written by Victor Feldman), Peter Thomas' version of "House of the Rising Sun" and Meco’s “Meco’s Theme,” rounding out what is a perfectly enjoyable and well-programmed set of revisionist jazz just waiting for justifiable reconsideration. Great cover, too.


Christopher Klaese said...

Excellent Review of a stompin' compilation.
Interessting to know the "Behind-the-Scenes"-Story about the Meco-Tracks.
BTW: Have you received the Release of the extraordinary "For Nightpeople Only" by Horst Jankowski & His Singers, also @ Jazz-Club?

Kirkatron said...

Sounds great, just ordered a copy.
Been playing a lot of James Last recently after watching the BBC 4 documentary on TV.

professor Eddy said...

Seems a great album to me! I ordered a copy today. Nice blog btw.