Here's a set of 10 great records. I've created this list as a more personal introduction than an academic one, and so I'm using the phrase "essential soul jazz" to describe the list very loosely. I recommend each with my heart and soul; meaning I've spent time getting to know them, and think you'll enjoy the experience of meeting them too.
Dropping the needle on a Nick Waterhouse record not only fills the room with sound, it also turns it into a working time machine, bound for Memphis circa 1959.
Whether manning the kit with soul-funk trio Soulive or leading his own trio, drummer Alan Evans continues to pull new inspiration and ideas out of the rhythmic aether.
With a blast of horns, a crush of guitars and the serious backbeat of a funky, thumping rhythm section, Flow Tribe marshals the groove of New Orleans -- and takes it in new directions.
Fresh Heir doesn't play the groove too retro. With nods to John Legend and Maroon 5, the band's sound is truly fresh and contemporary.
Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue give vibrant Crescent-City flavors a contemporary kick.
Only a handful of musicians can pick up a guitar or a bass and turn heads by playing complex patterns that sound as if another musician is playing along with them. Berkeley, Calif. native Charlie Hunter manages to do both at the same time with his custom 7-string axe.
Garage a Trois has changed the way people hear the marriage of funk and jazz. The band pushes boundaries and pulls bits from just about any rhythm-based genre you can imagine. The New Orleans group can make you want to groove or make you sit back and soak in the sound.
British-born singer Jamie Lidell is a one-man, blue-eyed soul wrecking crew -- or at least that's the sound of his 2010 release Compass, a multi-genre amalgam of shape-shifting vocals, glitchy grooves and heavy pop that suggests his previous collaborations with Beck and Grizzly Bear weren't just passing fancies.