"T Plays It Cool"---Marvin Gaye
The soundtrack to the blaxploitation film Trouble Man (1972) is one of those records that seems to fall through the cracks of most people's music collections. Although the LP offers a strong selling point in that it was entirely scored by Marvin Gaye, it's never been nearly as celebrated as more popular contenders such as Shaft (Isaac Hayes) or Superfly (Curtis Mayfield). One possible reason for the oversight is that the album is mostly instrumental, and is much more oriented towards jazz than fans of Gaye's typically soulful sound would likely expect. Additionally, the soundtrack no doubt suffered from its placement in time between two of Marvin's most widely revered recordings---What's Goin' On (1971) and Let's Get It On (1973).
Despite all of this, Trouble Man is certainly not without merit. It produced a few undeniable gems, such as the title track, and the smooth, infectious groove of "T Plays It Cool". According to everything I've read on the subject, Marvin felt a deep connection with jazz, and saw scoring the soundtrack as an opportunity to further explore his enthusiasm for the genre. In order to more fully understand the musical genius of this legendary recording artist, it seems essential to keep this particular record from getting too dusty.
"I Love You"---Eddie Holman
Eddie Holman is generally only mentioned when talking about his most popular record, "Hey There Lonely Girl". While he may be considered a one-hit wonder as far as most people are concerned, soul and gospel fanatics tend to have an awareness of his career that extends beyond this famous recording.
No disrespect to "Lonely Girl", but I've always had a much greater appreciation for some of his other recordings---"I Love You" being just one example. The track may have been released in 1970, but it's one of those timeless soul records that still rings true for anyone who's ever loved...and possibly even lost. The sense of urgency that Holman's vocals convey perfectly captures the essence of what makes him such a tremendous soul singer.
Although "I Love You" was a only a minor hit when it was originally released, it got a second wind in 2002, when it was revived on "Heaven" by Nas (from the God's Son LP).
More info about Holman's career can be found here and here.
"You'll Find A Way"---dead prez
I'm sure that others may disagree, but I've always believed that dead prez has been exiled to the underground largely because they're too overtly political to enjoy a great deal of mainstream and/or commercial success. Despite the fact that it wasn't widely embraced by the hip-hop community, their debut album Let's Get Free (2000) was highly acclaimed by critics, and managed to earn them comparisons to other politically-conscious artists like Public Enemy and X-Clan.
While I personally can get down with most of the sentiments that these guys spit on their first record, I still have to be in the proper mindset to listen to most of the tracks on the LP. "You'll Find A Way" stands out in that regard---I've probably played it at least a thousand times. It's an incredibly uplifting instrumental that seamlessly blends hip-hop and jazz elements into one exceptionally satisfying recording. I know it may sound fucked up, but this joint gets me just as high today as the very first time I heard it.
"Move Your Hand"---Lonnie Smith
I first heard this track after acquiring Blue Note Trip: Saturday Night/ Sunday Morning (2003). It's one of those records that I still regret not having listened to much sooner.
Dr. Lonnie Smith is not to be confused with either the baseball player of the same name, or Lonnie "Liston" Smith, another legendary jazz musician. Dr. Lonnie is widely known for his mastery of the Hammond B-3, an instrument he has referred to as both "the monster" and "the love of my life". He has played on and/or composed more than 70 recordings throughout the course of his relatively prolific career, and has kept company with many other icons of jazz, such as George Benson, Lou Donaldson, and David "Fathead" Newman.
Since encountering this track, I've sought out many of Dr. Lonnie's other musical efforts. However, this particular groove continues to be a favorite. This song originally appeared on an album with the same title, and was recorded in 1969 at Club Harlem in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Prior to its release, Smith was primarily popular in the Northeast region of the United States, but this effort gained him some well-deserved attention from a much wider audience base. One listen and you won't need to question what all the hype was about...
"Let It Slide" ---OC
This joint is from OC's debut LP, Word...Life (1994). The world at large may be immune to this record's existence, but many hip-hop enthusiasts properly recognize it as an underrated musical gem. The production on the LP was largely handled by Buckwild, who crafted some of the nicest jazz-rap beats you're ever going to hear on any record. For his part, OC served up some fairly elevated wordplay that meets a higher standard than most "rappers" today will ever see.
"Let It Slide" isn't necessarily the dopest track on the LP, but it's one of the joints I've listened to most consistently. It showcases OC's storytelling abilities rather nicely, and like I said, the beats on this record are astronomical.
OC has had a rather lengthy run in the hip-hop game. In addition to his solo material, he's also been affiliated with D.I.T.C., Crooklyn Dodgers, and the Hieroglyphics crew. If you know nothing about his legacy, go here to get familiar.
Eat these with a spoon, and call me in the morning...
Word From Your Moms:
"Great artists suffer for the people."---Marvin Gaye