Local Week: Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7

Three things come to mind when thinking of Kansas City: barbeque, fountains, and jazz. This triangulation of the senses makes the city we call home precisely that, home. And Kansas City’s jazz tradition shows no sign of slowing down. Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7 proves the jazz scene is alive and well with their live album, Soul Jazz Fridays. The organ anchored record features hot sax leads, swift percussion, swelling bass to create a smokey atmosphere–perfect for turning any den into a hazy jazz club.

It’s true jazz lives for the stage. Performance meander and drift in ways that are incapable of reproducing in the studio. That said, live albums can sometimes take a hit in sound quality. Not so with Soul Jazz Fridays. Recorded at the Green Lady Lounge, the record boasts a great recording of an electrifying performance. “Hip Shaker” gets the album off on the good foot. Bebop-ish leads bubble over an ever-cool Hammond B3 while syncopated drums shimmy in the distance. From its first note, you know this song, this album will be an instant jazz classic.

But the hits don’t stop at track one. Track after track, Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7 rides their grooves and lounge-focused jazz like an experienced jockey. Whether it’s the loping bass tones of “Onsaya Joy” or the uplifting sax of “Theme for Theo,” Soul Jazz Fridays constantly shifts its feel without losing the fire in each melody. The album does what a live performance should do–allow songs to exist on their own and within a collective.

One of the stand out tracks from the album is “The Grand Avenue Get-Down.” Unraveling like a jazzy rendition of classic Marvin Gaye, the track is groovy and soulful. “The Grand Avenue Get-Down” bounces into and out of solos, which allows the song to stay funky and fresh throughout its 6 minute unfurling. On the song, Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7 is able to stretch their music muscles–letting their instruments walk along the narrower edges of their aesthetic. The result is a song that is free and warm.

“The Grand Avenue Get-Down” seems to act as a volta in the performance. The track kicks up the tempo and pulls the rest of the album along with it. The final half of Soul Jazz Fridays bubbles hotter and quicker than the first half, making for an album that constantly climbs, and Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7 seems more than happy to climb with it. Never letting their quickened melodies best them, the band concludes Soul Jazz Fridays with flexibility and skill.

Ending the album with a Justin Timberlake cover, Chris Hazelton’s Boogaloo 7 shows that pop is as fruitful a habitat for jazz as any other. “Suit & Tie” takes all the Al Green worship Timberlake exudes and wrenches it into a Jimmy Smith-esque jam. Part pop, part jazz, “Suit & Tie” is all fun, the perfect way to end a jazz album that Kansas City can be proud to include in its already overflowing pantheon of jazz records.

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