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Soul Jazz Records was founded by Stuart Baker in 1991. Baker purchased his first record at the age of 10 and prior to starting the albel, had his roots selling records at a secondhand record vinyl stall in the Camden market in the late 1980s.
The label initially worked doing straight reissues of old albums before releasing Nu Yorica!, a double album of classic salsa and Latin funk from the 1970s. Peter Reilly spoke on the labels behalf that Nu Yorica was their first "really successful record" form Soul Jazz noting that "it was more of a kind of cult thing up until then. It opened it up to a lot of people." and that the album sold specifically well in New York.
The reggae releases were praised by important people of the genre, such as Chris Blackwell of Island records who called the It's Dynamite! compilations as the "university of reggae." Radio 1's Gilles Peterson commented that "Soul Jazz put out the best compilations. They've consistently done it, from the Studio One stuff to the free jazz stuff to the acid house compilations. As a reissue label, they're the best." Grant Marshall of Massive Attack stated that one thing he wanted to do when entering the music business was to release Studio One records in England and tried to deal with the Coxsone Dodd of Studio One. Baker managed to talk to Dodd to let him have access to their archives after Dodd had put out rare jazz compilations. Dodd died in 2004 leading to the labels relationship to continue via his daughter Carol and his wife Norma Dodd, who died in 2010. These deaths briefly led to breaks in releasing Studio One related material.
Soul Jazz has released album through sublabels. These include Universal Sound, which was described by the Soul Jazz website as both a sister label and a subsidiary label. Soul Jazz described Universal Sound as containing "releases that are slightly more specialist. Mainly artist releases rather than compilations they often follow on from an earlier Soul Jazz Release. Many of these releases come with extensive sleeve notes and original photos." Another was Satellite Records, which was a label home to bands such as Add N to X, Sand, Bell, and Yossarian.