While there are numerous compilations of music released on jazz labels like Blue Note, Prestige, Columbia, Impulse, Verve and Pacific, one label is often overlooked…Black Jazz Records. Indeed, compilers of compilations often overlook the riches of Black Jazz Records’ back-catalogue. Thankfully, Giles Peterson, one of the UK’s best DJs and crate digger extraordinaire, has recently rectified this, by releasing Giles Peterson-Black Jazz Records on 31st December 2012 on the Snow Dog label. This is Giles’ way of paying homage to one of his favorite labels. Indeed, Giles says that the day he discovered a Doug Carn album, his life changed. So, Giles Peterson-Black Jazz Records, which is a twelve-track mix, is Giles way on sharing one of the musical loves of his life. Before I tell you about Giles Peterson-Black Jazz Records, I’ll tell you about Black Jazz Records.

It was in 1971, in Los Angeles, that pianist Gene Russell and Dick Schlrly cofounded Black Jazz Records. They were two men with a vision. Their vision was a label that released an alternative to the style of jazz that was popular. Not only would this music, which some of is now referred to as spiritual jazz, offer an alternative to traditional jazz, but was tinged with political comment and funk. However, it wasn’t just jazz that Black Jazz Records would release.

Between 1971, when Black Jazz Records was founded and 1976, when the label folded, there was much more to their music than jazz. The music grew to include funk and soul. Spiritual jazz was what Black Jazz Records became best known for. Gradually, Black Jazz Records built an eclectic roster of artists. During 1971, Black Jazz Records released albums that included Gene Russell’s New Direction, Walter Bishop Jr’s Coral Keys, Rudolph Johnson’s Spring Rain, Chester Thompson’s Powerhouse and Calvin Keys’ Shawn-Neeq. Then there were a husband and wife, who’d both become successful recording artists.

They were Jean and Bill Carn. Jean would find fame at Philadelphia International Records, releasing four albums between 1976 and 1981. This included 1976s Jean Carn, 1978s Happy To Be With You and 1979s When I Find You Love. Jean’s final album for Gamble and Huff’s label, was 1981s Sweet and Wonderful, released on the T.S.O.P. imprint.  Husband Bill, would become one of Black Jazz Records’ most successful artists. His debut for Black Jazz Records was 1971s Infant Eyes. Spirit of The New Land followed in 1972 and Revelation in 1973. By 1974, when Bill released his fourth and final album for Black Jazz Records, Adam’s Apple, Bill was one of the label’s biggest selling artists. Indeed, Billboard magazine announced Doug Carn was selling more albums than either jazz legends Dave Brubeck and Ramsey Lewis.

By 1972, Black Jazz Records were adding new artists to their roster. The Awakening released their debut album Hear, Sense and Feel in 1972. Similarly, bassist Henry Franklin released his debut album The Skipper. That year, Doug Carn released his sophomore album Spirit of The New Land. The following year, 1973, would prove to be a much busier year for Black Jazz Records.

Among the new signings to Black Jazz Records in 1973, were Walter Bishop Jr’s 4th Cycle. They released Keeper of My Soul, their only album. Kellee Patterson also released Maiden Voyage her only release for Black Jazz Records. Some familiar faces also released new albums for Black Jazz Records. 

In 1973, Gene Russell released his second and final album for Black Jazz Records, Talk To My Lady. Similarly, Ari Brown’s The Awakening released Mirage, their second and final album. Two years after his debut album, Rudolph Johnson released his sophomore album The Second Coming. Sadly, this would the end of Rudolph’s time at Black Jazz Records. Bill Carn, who was becoming the label’s most successful artist, released Revelation. The next year, Bill would release his final album for Black Jazz Records.

1974 saw jazz guitarist Calvin Key release his sophomore albums Proceed With Caution. This came three years after his debut Shawn-Neeq. Henry Franklin also released his sophomore album The Player At Home. The same year, Doug Carn was at the height of his commercial success. He was outselling jazz legends like Dave Brubeck and Ramsey Lewis. Bill Carn released Adam’s Apple in 1974. That was his final release on Black Jazz Records. It seemed Bil Carn’s decision to leave Black Jazz Records was well time.

During 1975 Black Jazz Records weren’t exactly a prolific label. Having said that, there were two new albums released, both by new signings. Roland Haynes released his only album 2nd Wave. Cleveland Eaton would release his sophomore album Pretty Good Eaton on Black Jazz Records in 1975. This was the followup to Half and Half, which had been released on Gamble Records in 1973. The following year, Black Jazz Records would close.

When Gene Russell died, Black Jazz Records closed its doors for the first time. After that, the Black Jazz Records was purchased by James Hardge in the early nineties. Most of Black Jazz Records’ back-catalogue was released, apart for three Doug Carn albums. Since then, Black Jazz Records has been unavailable. So the release of Giles Peterson-Black Jazz Records on the Snow Dog label, comes as a welcome surprise for anyone who loves the label’s music. On Giles Peterson-Black Jazz Records, eleven tracks are mixed by Giles. It’s the eleven tracks on Giles Peterson-Black Jazz Records, that I’ll tell you about.

After the Giles Peterson-Black Jazz Radio introduction, comes The Awakening’s Awakening-Prologue Spring Thing, a track from their 1972 album Hear, Sense and Feel. Then two tracks see the mix head in the direction of soul-jazz. First up is Gene Russell’s Black Orchid, from his 1971 album New Direction. It’s followed by the title-track from Rudolph Johnson’s 1972 sophomore album, Second Coming. Henry Franklin’s Beauty and The Electric Tub, a track from 1972s The Skipper sees the mix head in the direction of jazz. Next up is track from one of the most compelling albums Black Jazz Records released. 

This was Walter Bishop Jr’s 4th Cycle’s Keeper of My Soul, where elements of modal jazz, blues, Afro-Cuban and soul-jazz becomes one. N’Dugu’s Prayer is the track Giles chose from Keeper of My Soul. His next choice was a no-brainer. There was no way he could omit Bill Carn’s spiritual jazz classic, Higher Ground, from the 1974 album Adam’s Apple. The quality continues with the chanted, hypnotic funk of Cleveland Eaton’s All Your Lover, All Day, All Night. This nine-minute Magnus Opus, along with Bill Carn’s Higher Ground are two of the highlights of Giles Peterson-Black Jazz Radio. Following two tracks of that quality isn’t easy, but Giles manages to do so.

Following two Black Jazz Records’ classic isn’t easy. Chosen to do is, Roland Haynes Second Wave, the title-track to his 1975 soul jazz album is next up. It was Roland’s only album and features Henry Franklin on bass. Then comes the soulful, jazz-tinged sound of Kellee Patterson’s Maiden Voyage, the title-track from her 1973 album. The penultimate track is jazz guitarist Calvin Keys’ Aunt Lovey, from his 1974 album Proceed With Caution. Bookending Giles Peterson-Black Jazz Radio is The Awakening’s Awakening Epilogue. Just like the track that opens Giles Peterson-Black Jazz Radio, this is a track from The Awakening’s Hear, Sense and Feel album, released in 1971. That closes Giles Peterson-Black Jazz Radio, a tantalizing taster of  the music of Black Jazz Records, one of the great labels in jazz music.

If you’ve never heard of Black Jazz Records, then Giles Peterson-Black Jazz Radio is the perfect starting point. This will introduce you to the music of one of jazz’s pioneering labels. During a five year period, between 1971 and 1976, they released cutting-edge, innovative music. While some of the music might not have been hugely commercial, it’s because it was brave, bold and ahead of its time. Like many small labels, they were ahead of musical trends and tastes. It would only be later, that people would realize the importance of Black Jazz Records. Indeed, since Black Jazz Records closed its doors, music lovers have delved deep into the label’s back-catalogue. While, Black Jazz Records wasn’t a prolific label, they were more concerned with quality. Whether it’s soul, jazz, funk, spiritual jazz or soul-jazz, Black Records released it. Nowadays, music lovers, plus DJs and crate-diggers, like Giles Peterson spread the Black Jazz Records gospel. Hopefully, Giles Peterson-Black Jazz Radio won’t be the only time Giles dips into the Black Jazz Records’ back-catalogue. 

Maybe in the future, Giles will delve deeper into the depths of Black Jazz Records’ back-catalogue? Surely, there’s plenty of material for a carefully and lovingly compiled box set. Giles Peterson is the man for the job. He’s more than a DJ, label owner and crate-digger, he’s a musical educator and tastemaker, who previously, has played his part in the growling popularity of Latin, Cuban and African music. His next job should be increasing Black Jazz Records’ popularity. Giles Peterson-Black Jazz Radio, which was released on 31st December 2012 on Snow Dog Records, is the first in a trio of mixes which will be released by Giles. Once he’s released the last of them, then maybe he could consider a box set to followup Giles Peterson-Black Jazz Radio? Standout Tracks: N’Dugu Prayer, Bill Carn Higher Ground, Cleveland Eaton All Your Lover and Walter Bishop Jr, 4th Cycle’s Keeper of My Soul.



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