Who did Aretha Franklin not want to miss out on when she recorded her most inspiring albums in the early seventies? Who gave Steely Dan the beat, who did Isaac Hayes, Donny Hathaway, B.B. King, "Sweet" Lou Donaldson and Joe Cocker give the chair behind the drums? The list is incomplete, but it must be, because no drummer has seen the inside of a studio as often as Bernard "Pretty" Purdie. On more than 4,000 albums, the art of the artist born in 1939 in Elkton, Maryland strengthens his partners.
Clues, however, to the man's unique qualities are already provided by this small excerpt. Not for nothing do colleagues attribute the "funkiest soul beat" on the scene to the drummer, and consequently Purdie has never relied on the genre of jazz alone, but rather curiously looked beyond the borders. Sessions with the Rolling Stones, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix or Tom Jones are no problem for him, whose precise and sensitive playing is synonymous with drive and groove. This is probably one of the reasons why his rhythms are still used as samples by many DJs today.
When Bernard Purdie is not helping some big star to create a fantastic studio sound, the drummer pursues his own projects such as "Soul to Jazz", two albums he recorded in 1996 and 1997. Released on CD back then (and now out of print), the two recordings have a cult factor today and sound as fresh as they did back then. Now both albums are released together for the first time as a 3-LP Set. These recordings are peppered with lots of prominent star guests from jazz and soul, from Eddie Harris, Michael Brecker and Nils Landgren to Hank Crawford, Stanley Turrentine and Cornell Dupree.
Purdie's "Soul to Jazz" project takes two different approaches: The first part focuses on the renowned WDR Big Band led by Gil Goldstein. Soul classics such as Stevie Wonder's "Superstition", "When a Man Loves a Woman", Eddie Harris' "Freedom Jazz Dance" and Lee Morgan's famous groove tune "Sidewinder" are interpreted in large-scale sound. One discovery of these recordings amidst all the renowned guest soloists is the New York-born singer Martin Moss.
The great success of this first album released under "Soul to Jazz" led to "Soul to Jazz II", a more intimate record, but one that picks up where the first recording left off by exploring similar themes. Again Purdie has called together a notable band of kindred spirits, including saxophonists Hank Crawford (B.B. King, Ike & Tina Turner, Ray Charles), Stanley Turrentine (Jimmy Smith, Shirley Scott) and Vincent Herring, as well as guitarist Cornell Dupree (King Curtis) to pianists Benny Green and Junior Mance.
Bernard Purdie's "Soul to Jazz" is a timeless classic and a blueprint of the soul-jazz genre in all its facets. Above all, it is a portrait of one of the most influential and best drummers in the world, who made jazz groove with his inimitable funky soul beat.