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Jazz Dispensary – At the Movies (Craft)

27 December 2023

Jazz Dispensary: At the Movies is a spirited collection of familiar and obscure soul, funk, and R&B tracks used in urban cinema, blaxploitation films, and cult-classic movies released between 1969 to 1975. “Saturday night is partying time,” sings Melvin Van Peebles’ a capella ensemble during “Saturday Night” from 1972 comedy musical Don’t Play Us Cheap. Accompanied only by handclap percussion, the effervescent song (and At the Movies’ only track with voices) is led by a comic lead vocal and accompanied by gospel harmonies and a doo-wop bass man. “Time is Tight” appears in the original version by Booker T. & the MG’s that was included in the score for 1969’s Uptight, rather than the revved-up version familiar to many from The Blues Brothers movie. The layered themes “Joe Bell” from 1974’s Three Tough Guys and “Pursuit of the Pimpmobile” from 1974’s Truck Turner will be recognizable as the work of Isaac Hayes to anyone familiar with the fusion of funk and symphonic sounds heard on the more famous “Theme from Shaft.” Famously funky drummer Bernard Purdie and equally funky rhythm guitarist Cornell Dupree are among the players laying down “The Riot” with Ed Bogas and Ray Shanklin from Ralph Bakshi’s controversial animated film Fritz the Cat. The mellow groove of “Incense of Essence” is led by the unison melody of Dave Hubbard’s flute and Danny Moore’s flugelhorn. Van Peebles’ “Sweetback’s Theme” features Earth, Wind & Fire on a track featuring brass and twinkling electric piano. Muted trumpet and strings heighten the tension of The Blackbyrds’ “Wilford’s Gone” from Cornbread, Earl and Me. Additional gems are pulled from 1973 animated feature Heavy Traffic and Black Girl from the same year. Originally released for Record Store Day Black Friday on “purple haze” swirl-colored vinyl, the Jazz Dispensary: At the Movies LP is worth seeking for devotees of contemporary soul labels including Daptone and Timmion. (craftrecordings.com)