Mainstream Records is one of the key independent jazz labels of the early 70s, together with Flying Dutchman, Strata East, CTI and Black Jazz. Founded by legendary label man Bob Shad (who had been head of A&R at Mercury Records and set EmArcy in the 50s), the label concentrated on Psychedelia in the 60s before switching back to Shad's jazz roots in the early 70s, signing a new crop of jazzmen fed on John Coltrane and Miles' electric experiments. Thus was born the cult Mainstream "300 series" with its distinctive artwork and outstanding music from which this selection is largely drawn. Giving their chance to many young jazz players and a few old friends, Shad recorded some of the most exciting jazz of the early 70s, mixing spiritual influences with funk and soul. It is interesting to note the Mainstream sessions included many of the hottest session players of that time such as Ron Carter, Eddie Henderson, Airto, Mtume, Earl Palmer, Mickey Roker, Merl Saunders, Cedar Walton to name but a few.
Shad also had a long-standing association with jazz divas showcased here with the opening track by Sarah Vaughan, a funkyfied version of Marvin Gaye's 'Inner City Blues' recorded the same year as the original in 1971. Mainstream Funk also includes a selection of superb tracks by young turks who'd cut their teeth as sidemen for Blue Note and Prestige in the late 60s and were given a chance to record their own music on Mainstream. Buddy Terry's 'Quiet Afternoon', Dave Hubbard's 'Family Affair' and LaMont Johnson's 'M'Bassa' are prime examples showcasing the label's desire to give these talented newcomers a chance to shine. Seasoned musicians from the Be Bop scene were also welcome, such as trumpetists Blue Mitchell - who'd released a string of great albums for Riverside and Blue Note in the late 50s and 60s - and Johnny Coles who'd played with Gil Evans (he's on a few Evans-produced Miles albums including 'Sketches of Spain'), Charles Mingus and Herbie Hancock. Shad also released pure soul music on the label such as Sugar Billy's "Super Duper Love" which was released on his Fast Track sub-label in 1974, arranged by Jimmy Roach and featuring Marcus Belgrave in the line-up. Mainstream Records has a lot more exciting music in the vaults and Mainstream Funk is just the tip of the iceberg serving as a timely reminder that Bob Shad's taste as a producer and A&R man was one of the finest on the scene.