Soul jazz is often associated with hard bop. Mark C. Gridley, writing for the All Music Guide to Jazz, explains that soul jazz more specifically refers to music with "an earthy, bluesy melodic concept" and "repetitive, dance-like rhythms.... Note that some listeners make no distinction between 'soul-jazz" and 'funky hard bop,' and many musicians don't consider 'soul-jazz' to be continuous with 'hard bop.'" Roy Carr describes soul jazz as an outgrowth of hard bop, with the terms "funk" and "soul" appearing in a jazz context as early as the mid-1950s to describe "gospel-informed, down-home, call-and-response blues." Carr also notes the acknowledged influence of Ray Charles' small group recordings (which included saxophonists David "Fathead" Newman and Hank Crawford) with Horace Silver, Art Blakey, Cannonball Adderley  and Milt Jackson.
Soul jazz developed in the late 1950s, reaching public awareness with the release of The Cannonball Adderley Quintet in San Francisco. Cannonball Adderley noted: "We were pressured quite heavily by Riverside Records when they discovered there was a word called 'soul'. We became, from an image point of view, soul jazz artists. They kept promoting us that way and I kept deliberately fighting it, to the extent that it became a game." While soul jazz was most popular during the mid-to-late 1960s, many soul jazz performers, and elements of the music, remain popular. The Jazz Crusaders, for example, evolved from soul jazz to soul music, becoming The Crusaders in the process. Carr places David Sanborn and Maceo Parker in a line of alto saxophonists that includes Earl Bostic and Tab Smith, with Adderley, followed by Lou Donaldson, as the strongest links in the chain.
Some well-known soul jazz recordings are Lee Morgan's The Sidewinder (1963), Frank Foster's Samba Blues (1963), Herbie Hancock's "Cantaloupe Island" (1964) (which was popularized further when sampled by US3 on "Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)"), Horace Silver's "Song for My Father" (1964) (quoted by Steely Dan in their "Rikki Don't Lose That Number"), Ramsey Lewis's "The In Crowd" (a top-five hit in 1965), and Cannonball Adderley's "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" (1966) (also popularized further when covered as a top 40 pop song by The Buckinghams). Les McCann and Eddie Harris's album Swiss Movement (1969) was a hit record, as was the accompanying single "Compared To What", with both selling millions of units.
Important soul jazz organists include Bill Doggett, Charles Earland, Richard "Groove" Holmes, Les McCann, "Brother" Jack McDuff, Jimmy McGriff, Lonnie Smith, Big John Patton, Don Patterson, Shirley Scott, Hank Marr, Reuben Wilson, Jimmy Smith and Johnny Hammond Smith.
Tenor saxophone and guitar are also important in soul jazz; soul jazz tenors include Gene Ammons, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Eddie Harris, Houston Person, and Stanley Turrentine; guitarists include Grant Green, Kenny Burrell and George Benson. Other important contributors include alto saxophonists Lou Donaldson and Hank Crawford, trumpeter Blue Mitchell, and drummer Idris Muhammad (né Leo Morris).
|“||Funky means earthy and blues-based. It might not be blues itself, but it does have that 'down-home' feel to it. Soul is basically the same, but there's an added dimension of feeling and spirit.||”|
|— Horace Silver|
- Gridley, Mark C. (1994), Ron Wynn, ed., All Music Guide to Jazz, M. Erlewine, V. Bogdanov, San Francisco: Miller Freeman, pp. 11–12, 14, ISBN 0-87930-308-5
- Tanner, Paul O. W.; Maurice Gerow; David W. Megill (1988) . "Hard Bop — Funky". Jazz (6th ed.). Dubuque, IA: William C. Brown, College Division. pp. 112–121. ISBN 0-697-03663-4.
- Carr, Roy (2006) , "Soul to Soul", A Century of Jazz: A Hundred Years of the Greatest Music Ever Made, London: Hamlyn, pp. 106–121, ISBN 0-681-03179-4,
Soul [jazz] was just a natural outpouring of Hard Bop and, for the most part popularized by many of the genre's stellar soloists....
- Sidran, Ben. Jazz Profiles from NPR: Nat Adderley (1931–2000) NPR. Accessed December 13, 2007.
- See also Herrmann, Zachary. (April 2, 2007) Concord releases Orrin Keepnews Collection JazzTimes Magazine. Accessed December 13, 2007.
- Quoted in Carr, p. 150
- Du Noyer, Paul (2003). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music (1st ed.). Fulham, London: Flame Tree Publishing. p. 140. ISBN 1-904041-96-5.