Verve Records is issuing for the first time on CD James Brown’s jazz album, “Soul on Top.” Recorded in 1969 with the Louie Bellson Orchestra, it was originally released on King Records. The 12-tune collection features Oliver Nelson’s arrangements and Brown’s bandmate Maceo Parker Jr.’s tenor sax gales. Led by the longtime Duke Ellington Orchestra drummer, the support group includes such noteworthies as bassist Ray Brown and alto saxophonist Ernie Watts.
In the original LP’s liner notes penned by jazz scribe Leonard Feather, Brown commented, “At heart I’ve always been a jazz man. When I was just a kid in Macon, Ga., during amateur shows, I went up onstage with some of those name bands that passed through town. I’ve never forgotten the impression those big-band sounds made on me.”
On the album, Brown performs such romantic standards as “That’s My Desire” and “It’s Magic.” He puts a funky jazz spin on Hank Williams’ “Your Cheating Heart” and stretches out on two of his big hits, “It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World” and “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” given the big-band jazz treatment by Nelson. The CD also contains a previously unissued version of Brown’s 1968 hit, “There Was a Time,” co-written by Brown and Bud Hobgood.