Walter Bishop, Jr – Coral Keys (1971) (Black Jazz BJ/2)

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“Coral Keys”
Walter Bishop, Jr.
Released on Black Jazz 1971 (BJ/2)
Japanese Reissue 2005 Black Jazz/P-Vine

Coral Keys 6:20
Waltz For Zweetie 5:08
Track Down 4:51
Soul Turn Around 7:18
Our November 4:10
Three Loves 5:00
Freedom Suite 7:50

All songs composedand arranged by Walter Bishop
Produced and engineered by Gene Russell Continue reading

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

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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.


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Calvin Keys – Shawn-neeq (1971)

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Calvin Keys
Shawn-Neeq
1971 Black Jazz BJ/8

2005 Reissue

B. E.     7:25
Criss Cross     5:50
Shawn-Neeq     5:55
Gee-Gee     7:57
B. K.     9:21

Bass – Lawrence Evans
Drums – Bob Braye
Electric Piano – Larry Nash
Flute – Owen Marshall
Guitar – Calvin Keys

Producer – Gene Russell    Arranged By – Calvin Keys Continue reading

The Awakening – Hear, Sense, and Feel (1972) [Black Jazz BJ9]

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The Awakening
Hear, Sense and Feel
1972 Black Jazz Records BJ9

1     Awakening – Prologue / Spring Thing     9:36
2     When Will It Ever End    7:16
3     Convulsions     6:37
4     Kera’s Dance     10:05
5    Jupiter     7:33
6     Brand New Feeling    5:50
7    Awakening – Epilogue     1:08


Bass – Reggie Willis
Drums – Arlington Davis, Jr.
Flugelhorn, Trumpet – Frank Gordon
Piano, Electric Piano – Ken Chaney
Tenor Saxophone, Flute – Ari Brown
Trombone – Steve Galloway
Electric bass on “Brand New Feeling” – Richard Evans

Produced by – Gene Russell
Recorded at Streeterville Studio, Chicago

———————————–

A lovely, dare I say a gorgeous record from jazz ensemble The Awakening, all of whose members seemed to have connections of the AACM collective founded by Muhal Richard Abrams in Chicago.   While Frank Gordon and Ken Chaney were co-credited as bandleaders, the record has the kind of musical egalitarianism you might expect.  Recording for the short-lived Black Jazz label, they were only around for about four years and put out two excellent albums of mostly mellow, modal, moody jazz in the more soulful corner of the Afrocentric “spiritual” jazz idiom.  In spite of having a track titled “Convulsions”, everything on the record is melodic, with the occasional free riffing or over-blowing coasting on top of solid grooves.  The record opens up with a invocation-type poem that leads into “Spring Thing,” which eases us into the album.  If I have any criticism of the record it might be that, while this first track features obligatory solos from everyone as a way of introducing their voices, it somehow ends up not particularly representing the musical identity of the group.  But that is okay, because 1972 was a time when people seemed to have more time to sit and listen to music and didn’t have to be `hooked` in the first few minutes to stay interested. Patience, my friend.  “When Will It End” has a circular-time thing going apropos of the title, with the bass playing a five-note ascending riff that barely changes over the course of seven minutes.  Chaney switches to electric piano for this one with delicious results.  Speaking of piano, for whatever reason, random association or coincidence, the two compositions by (trumpeter) Frank Gordon remind me a lot of McCoy Tyner

With the exception of special guest Richard Evans, who plays the only electric bass on the record on the funky closer “Brand New Feeling,”  the two members with the broadest pedigree outside the AACM seem to be Steve Galloway and Ken Chaney.  Galloway played with Count Basie in addition to credits on the cult-classic “Funky Skull” album by Melvin Jackson and a respectable number of soul sessions (Jerry Butler, The Dells, The Staples), and Ken Chaney, who among his other accomplishments played on the massive hit “Soulful Strut” by Young-Holt Unlimited.

“Hear, Sense, and Feel” is an immediately accessible, uplifting jazz record.  Their next album, “Mirage,” was a bit funkier and a little bit more “out” as well.

A long time ago I promised to share a whole bunch of stuff from the Black Jazz discography.  Well as the saying goes, promises were meant to be broken.  Anyway this should help ease the pain until I dip back into their catalog again here.