Doug Carn – Infant Eyes (1971)

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Doug Carn
“Infant Eyes”
Released 1971 on Black Jazz Records (BJ/3)

Welcome 1:15
Little B’s Poem 3:50
Moon Child 7:56
Infant Eyes 9:50
Passion Dance 5:58
Acknowledgement 8:45
Peace 4:30

Doug Carn – piano, electric Piano, organ
Jean Carn – vocals
Bob Frazier – flugelhorn, trumpet
George Harper – flute, tenor, saxophone
Al Hall Jr. – trombone, trombone
Henry Franklin – bass
Michael Carvin – drums

Produced by Gene Russell

Although he recorded a 1969 album in a trio setting for Savoy (which I’ve never heard), Doug Carn is of course most famous for his relationship with the independent Black Jazz label. His albums on that imprint may be single-handedly responsible for the label’s canonical status in Afrocentric spiritual jazz. They are remarkable for many reasons, not least of which is the presence of innovative lyrics sung by his then-wife Jean Carn, who not unlike Abbey Lincoln used her voice as part of the ensemble arrangements rather than as a vocalist with a backup band. The communal family vibe is accentuated by the beautiful album cover photography and the opening tune Little B’s Poem; together with the cover photo, I feel like I knew their daughter and wonder where she is now and how she feels about all the musical attention today. While the following albums from the Doug and Jean Carn would push further with original material, this first album is noteworthy for it’s reworking of compositions by jazz heavyweights that they admired – Bobby Hutcherson, Horace Silver, Coltrane, McCoy Tyner, and Wayne Shorter. In particular, adding lyrics to that material and making the compositions into something else is the big achievement here.

I have a repress vinyl of this that sounds pretty good and began to mess around with a digital rip of it, but am unsure whether or not to keep working on it. This CD pressing from 1997 sounds okay but the second side (of the original LP) suffers from nasty wow and flutter from whatever source tape they used. This was the first appearance of this album on CD and I am not sure if there has been any other remastered versions since, but I kind of doubt it. In fact last year somebody claiming to have a set of Black Jazz master tapes was selling the whole bundle on Craig’s List for a hefty sum; the auction was dubious as they were comprised of 1/2″ reels, which even for a studio on a budget in the early 70s would have been a substandard format, and claimed to come with full reproduction rights. Most likely the reels were production copies or just plain counterfeit, the listing was not online long before it was either met with an offer or taken down. Hopefully that doesn’t mean that we’ll be seeing a new series of reissues mastered from 1/2-inch tape.. Unfortunately a few of the other extant Doug Carn reissues have the same wow-and-flutter problem. Badly stored tapes, damaged playback equipment, sloppy transferring, or all of the above, it doesn’t really matter – the end result is that this precious, important music hasn’t received the treatment that it merits. But the most important thing is that it is still available and people can hear it. Since the reissued vinyls were most certainly just the CD master with an R$AA equalization curve applied, there isn’t much point in having both versions except for purely fetishistic reasons. Unless I can manage to get my hands on original vinyl pressings, they are however all we’ve got..

The liner notes by Doug Carn are a treasure. Written just for the reissue, they have a remarkable amount of detailed recollections for being composed more than thirty years after the recordings, showing just what a special time this was for everyone involved. While this is not my favorite of the Carn albums on Black Jazz, it is unique and on its own it is a great record. The title cut, which according to the notes was the first fruits of Doug’s experience with writing lyrics to other peoples’ music, stands out as the most fully realized work here.

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Juju – Chapter Two: Nia (1974) Strata- East – Black Fire 24/96khz vinyl

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JuJu – Chapter Two: Nia

Originally released on
Strata-East – SES-7420 in 1974
This repressing, Black Fire Records (date unknown)

To find peace, you must BE it.
– Ngoma Ya Uhuru, “Complete the Circle”

1 Introduction 2:40
2 Contradiction (For Thulani) 5:10
3 Black Experience 3:44
4 Nia (Poem: Complete The Circle) 8:36
5 The End Of The Butterfly King (Poem: Things Comin’ Along) 6:10
6 Black Unity 15:58

Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Flute, Percussion – Plunky Nkabinde
Bells, Vocals,Poetry – Ngoma Ya Uhuru
Congas – Simbo
Drums, Congas, Whistle – Babatunde
Electric Bass – Phil Branch
Piano, Shekere, Percussion – Al-Hammel Rasul
Vibraphone, Percussion – Lon Moshe

Engineer – Tom Williams
Liner Notes – Thulani Nkabinde

Arranged by Plunky Nkabinde
Art Direction, Photography, Layout – Collis Davis

Recorded June, 1974 at Eastern Recording Studios, Richmond, Virginia

Video Playback Equipment: Center For Puerto Rican Studies, New York City
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Video playback equipment?? I wish I know what that was all about. Presumably it involved some heady stuff at the The East, the collectively-run tiny jazz club / pedagogical outreach / Afrocentricity home base for so much great music that ended up released on the associated Strata-East record label. (The Center for PR Studies was and still is part of Hunter College and linked to the CUNY system).

“JUJU” was the name of the ensemble that would become the funk-jazz-fusion outfit known as ‘Oneness of Juju’. Their first two albums were made for the famed Strata-East label. The first one dipping from the well of free jazz outfits like the Art Ensemble of Chicago, while this album goes further into Afro-centric themes with layers and layers of percussion, a few unrelentingly-groove-based compositions, and poetry over a couple tunes, very much in the spirit of early 70s spiritual-jazz sociopolitical-revolutionary-love and political fire music. Their take on Pharaoh Sanders ‘Black Unity’ is frenzied — two electric bass guitars giving it a heavy fusion sound (although they are the only electric instruments featured). Drummer ‘Babatunde’ definitely has jazz chops but sometimes he sounds like Billy Cobham on on a tight budget, something about the way he tunes his kit and his heavy hands. The couple of drum solos he takes are a little weird to my ears but when all the rest of the percussionists kick in it starts to gel very nicely. You can actually hear the band transitioning from the more free-jazz, heavily AEoC-inspired first album to their leaner jazz-funk identify as Oneness of Juju, with this album acting as a spiritual bridge between them. The radical spaces created around The East saturate this album, and if anyone needed convincing that those messages are still relevant they need only open a newspaper or look out in the streets.

“A new day is coming. A new day is here. Seize the time … everything comes in time… I don’t believe in time. Only change. Change the time. It’s ours now brothers, sisters. It’s ours now if we use it. There is no time. Only rhythm and change. There is no time, only rhythm and change. Only change. Only change. Change.”

These Black Fire vinyl repressings are, like so many vinyl repressings, a bit inconsistent. You will definitely notice the surface noise in some of the quiet passages , which there is no way of removing without leaving digital artifacts much more offensive to the ear. But the majority of the album has the band playing fairly loud, and so the surface noise really doesn’t bother me much. If it bothers you, I’ll be happy to refund your money.

in 320 kbs

in FLAC LOSSLESS AUDIO
16-bit / 44.1 khz or 24-bit / 96 khz

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