Gene Russell – New Direction (1972) (Black Jazz BJ/1)

folder

Gene Russell
New Direction
1972 Black Jazz BJ/1
2003 CD Reissue Black Jazz BJ/1

1     Black Orchid     3:13
2     Hitting The Jug     4:42
3     Willow Weep For Me     4:48
4     Listen Here     3:15
5     On Green Dolphin Street     5:02
6     Silver’s Serenade     4:54
7     My Cherie Amour     3:01
8     Making Bread     3:21

Bass – Henry Franklin
Electric bass – Larry Gates (tracks: 1, 8)
Congas – Tony William
Drums – Steve Clover
Piano – Gene Russell

Producer – Gene Russell


“New Direction” is maybe the misnomer of the year as far as jazz records released in 1972.  This album looks squarely to the past golden age of acoustic piano-led soul jazz for its inspiration.  There is nothing unpleasant here, by any means, but these are sounds you could find  executed with more panache and variety on  any given Junior Mance, Ahmad Jamal or Ramsey Lewis record.   Mostly this album is of historic interest because Gene Russell was the founder and executive producer of the Black Jazz Records label, which has since developed quite a cult following for its stunning recordings that explored adventurous (but accessible) pathways into modal, spiritual, and ‘conscious’ jazz, like the masterful entries from Doug and Jean Carn.  The history of the label and its reissues is something of a mess, with its master tapes even being sold on eBay at one point.   None of the songwriters are credited on this sketchy CD pressing from the early 00’s, for example, and none of them are originals.  Most casual jazz fans will recognize that a few of them are standards.  This label debut opens up with the Latin jazz of Neil Hefti’s “Black Orchid”, and serves up a memorable groover in Eddie Harris’ “Listen Here.”  I’m not sure Russell has the chops or the vision to make “On Green Dolphin Street” or “Silver’s Serenade” good for much more than background music.  By the time the rather pointless rendition of “My Cherie Amour” comes around, I’m afraid the idea of this record is firmly established: this is solid dinner jazz with which to take your seat and order a cocktail and a small appetizer, while you await the main act to come on stage — in this case, the main act being THE REST OF THE BLACK JAZZ CATALOG.  He closes with Gene Harris ‘”Making Bread,” which seems like a fitting conclusion for all this.  Harris, whether with The Three Sounds or his wonderful records on his own, was the Master Chef who, along with an entourage of other culinary alchemists, made possible the sonic kitchen that would be the playground for the great music to issue forth from the Black Jazz imprint.  So now with the hors d’oeuvres out of the way, the real menu is ready to be rolled out.

Perhaps “New Direction” was designed as a deliberate look back to how we got “here” (‘here’ being soul jazz in 1972), in which case we can hear it as a reverent homage and statement of purpose.  In all other respects, though, I won’t hesitate in saying that this is the least interesting entry in the entire Black Jazz discography.  But since it is my intention to follow through on a promise made long ago about sharing a bunch of that music here at Flabbergasted Vibes, we might as well start with BJ/1.   Rusell gave us a mildly more interesting and considerably more funky record in 1973’s “Talk To My Lady,” which we’ll get to soon enough.


mp3 icon

flac buttonpassword: vibes

 

A word:  times are tough all over, and I’m reinventing myself for the third or fourth time in life to adjust to our New Reality.  I am trying to save some money so that I can relocate to a place where there are actual jobs for people with my kinds of skills.  I’m stuck in a rut, y’all, and it’s been hell getting out. If you enjoy reading these posts, consider making a donation using one of the buttons on the sidebar to help offset the costs of getting this blog online.  Any amounts are welcome.  Thanks!

Bookmark the permalink.

4 Comments

  1. Nice album. Good choice.

  2. Thanks Flab! Great album from the Black Jazz vaults!

  3. Nice album. Thank you for all your effort and time.

  4. Thank you so much! It’s awesome how rich could be a two track record… when done by a master

Leave a Reply