Roland Haynes-2nd Wave.

Label: Real Gone Music.

Format: CD.

Forty-five years ago in 1975, Roland Haynes released his debut album 2nd Wave on the Detroit-based Black Jazz Records. The label was founded by Gene Russell and Dick Schory and released twenty albums between 1971 and 1975. 2nd Wave was the label’s penultimate release and it folded later in 1975. By then, the label had released a number of important, influential and innovative albums including 2nd Wave. 

When pianist Gene Russell and percussionist Dick Schory founded Black Jazz Records in Oakland, California, in 1971, the nascent label’s raison d’être was “to promote the talents of young African American jazz musicians and singers.” This was only part of their vision for their new label.

They were determined that Black Jazz Records would released an alternative to what they saw as the old school jazz that was popular at the time. They wanted to release an alternative to traditional jazz, and this included albums that featured political and spiritual influenced music. However, spiritual jazz was just part of the Black Jazz Records’ story and the label between 1971 and 1975 it released twenty albums that included everything from free jazz and funk to soul-jazz.

Fittingly, Black Jazz Records’ first release was Gene Russell’s sophomore album New Direction which was released in 1971. This was just the start of a prolific year for the label.

In their first year, Black Jazz Records also released Walter Bishop Jr’s Coral Keys, Doug Carn’s Infant Eyes, Rudolph Johnson’s Spring Rain, Chester Thompson’s Powerhouse and Calvin Keys’ Shawn-Neeq. By the end of 1971, the new label had released six albums in its first year. Other labels must have looked on enviously.

Cofounder Dick Schory had founded Chicago-based Ovation Records, which was a successful country and western label which  was providing funding for Black Jazz Records and distributing its releases. This gave the label a helping hand and meant it had an edge on its competitors.

The cofounders were determined that as wide an audience as possible hear the albums that the label was releasing so Gene Russell organised a promotional tour, In September 1971, Gene Russell and his Ray Lawrence who was his marketing consultant toured America giving interviews to newspaper journalists and featured on radio and newspaper where they showcased Black Jazz Records and its artists. This resulted in valuable publicity for the label.

By 1972, Black Jazz Records was adding new artists to their roster and signed Henry Franklin who released his album The Skipper later that year. So had another new signing The Awakening, who released Hear, Sense and Feel.

In between albums from Henry Franklin and The Awakening Doug Carn released his sophomore album. This was Spirit Of The New Land which featured his wife Jean Carn, and was the label’s most successful release of 1972.

1973 was Black Jazz Records’ busiest year. Familiar faces returned with new albums including Gene Russell’s Talk To My Lady and Rudolph Johnson’s The Second Coming. However, Black Jazz Records were still signing new artists.

Their latest signing was Kellee Patterson who released her debut album Maiden Voyage in 1973. It was the twelfth album that the label had released in two years.

The other three albums released during 1973 were from familiar faces and included Walter Bishop, Jr’s Keeper Of My Soul, Doug Carn’s Revelation and The Awakening’s Mirage. Again, Doug Carn was responsible for Black Jazz Records’ most successful album.

Doug Carn returned in 1974 with Adam’s Apple which was the label’s biggest selling album that year. Black Jazz Records only released two more albums during 1974 Henry Franklin’s The Skipper At Home and Calvin Keys’ Proceed With Caution! 1973 wasn’t a busy year for Gene Russell and Dick Schory’s label which would release just two more albums.

The first album Black Jazz Records released in 1975 was Roland Haynes’ 2nd Wave. It was also the keyboardist’s debut album.

When Roland Haynes signed to Black Jazz Record very little was known about him. He hadn’t played on any other albums as a session musician, but his talent was undeniable and that was why he was about to record his debut album.

Although  Roland Haynes was primarily a keyboardist, he could also play the bass. This meant he had a lot in common with Henry Franklin who was booked to play on the sessions for 2nd Wave. He remembers the session and Roland Haynes: “It was a lot of high energy, it was fun cause Roland was a high energy guy.” That was evident in the music he was about to record.

Roland Haynes led a quartet during the 2nd Wave sessions. It featured drummer Carl Burnett, bassist Henry Franklin and Kirk Lightsey whose wah-wah-fuelled Fender Rhodes proved to be the  perfect foil to Roland Haynes’ keyboard playing as the band recorded six of his compositions.

When 2nd Wave was finished and ready for release it was an album that was described as “fresh and today” on the cover. It was also an album that musically was ahead of its time. Soul-jazz, fusion and jazz-funk featured on the six tracks on that was later compared to John Patton’s 1969 album Accent, Herbie Hancock’s classic album Head Hunters and Miles Davis’ seventies band that featured Chick Correa, Herbie Hancock, Joe Zawinul and Keith Jarrett. However, when 2nd Wave was released it was a familiar story.

Just like a number of other albums released by Black Jazz Records since 1971, commercial success eluded Roland Haynes’ debut album 2nd Wave. The album sunk without trace and passed critics and record buyers by. They missed out on one of the hidden gems in the Black Jazz Records discography.

Opening 2nd Wave is the ballad Eglise, where the inimitable lush sound of the Fender Rhodes plays a leading role and combines with the rhythm section who underpin the arrangement. Especially Carl Burnett’s drums and his hi-hats which are an important addition. However, it’s the deliciously dreamy floaty keyboards that provide the perfect foil to the Fender Rhodes during this breathtaking ballad.

Carl Burnett’s drumming on Second Wave is uber funky and upbeat and urgent. He’s joined by wah-wah-fuelled keyboards and a fleet-fingered Fender Rhodes solo. The band play with urgency combining jazz-funk and fusion. They also seem to have drawn inspiration from Blaxploitation soundtracks and Herbie Hancock’s Head Hunters during this spellbinding jam.

Straight away, Kirstin’s Play heads in the direction of fusion. Again, the keyboards and shimmering, chiming, chirping Fender Rhodes are to the fore as the drums power the arrangement along. It’s as if they’ve been asked to score a high speed car chase, and in doing so, combine fusion and jazz-funk to create what’s one of the album’s highlights and one of the hidden gems from Black Jazz Records’ back-catalogue.

After taking a back seat on previous tracks bassist Henry Franklin enjoys the opportunity to showcase his considerable talents on Aicelis. His bass accompanies a shimmering Fender Rhodes as drummer Carl Burnett plays slowly taking care to not overpower the rest of Roland Haynes’ beautiful, languid and sometimes slightly dramatic arrangement. It sounds as if it’s been partly inspired by the Mahavishnu Orchestra.

Descent features both the keyboards and Fender Rhodes to the fore as the arrangement races along. It’s driven along by the rhythm section, but the keyboards to take centrestage. The funky Fender Rhodes is played with speed, power and accuracy and is matched every step of the way by the other keyboards. Meanwhile, Carl Burnett pounds on the cymbals which augment the myriad of keyboard on this high speed jam. This eight minute epic sounds as if it’s been influenced by Miles Davis’ seventies band, Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters, Jan Hammer and even Bill Bruford.

Closing 2nd Wave is Funky Mama Moose. It’s another funky track with the quartet getting into the groove as the Fender Rhodes and keyboards combine with the rhythm section. Soon, Roland Haynes chants: “Funky Mama Moose.” Then when it drops out this allows the band to unleash one of their funkiest performances on a track that DJs, dancers and sample hungry producers will love.

After the release of 2nd Wave in 1975, Black Jazz Records released just one more album later that year. This was Cleveland Eaton’s Plenty Good Eaton. Not long after this, the label closed its doors for the last time and Gene Russell started a new label Aquarican Records.

It was the end of an era as Black Jazz Records had set out to release an alternative to traditional jazz, and this included albums that featured political and spiritual influenced music. This was all very admirable, but only the Doug Carn albums enjoyed any degree of success. The sales although relatively small were good for an independent label. However, maybe they would’ve fared better if released on a bigger label?

The same can be said about Roland Haynes’ 1975 debut album 2nd Wave where he combined funk, fusion, jazz-funk and soul-jazz on six tracks. They were inspired by everything from Bill Bruford and Blaxploitation soundtracks to Herbie Hancock’s classic album Head Hunters, Jan Hammer, Mahavishnu Orchestra and Miles Davis’ fusion band. These influences shine through on 2nd Wave which was one of the oft-overlooked albums from the Black Jazz Records’ back-catalogue.

Thankfully, that’s no longer the case and a new generation of record buyers are discovering the delights of 2nd Wave which is one of the rarest albums that Black Jazz Records released. However, original copies of Roland Haynes’ debut album are much prized amongst record collectors and change hands for large sums of money. The recent reissue of 2nd Wave by Real Gone Music is to be welcomed as now this once oft-overlooked hidden gem is available to everyone who can discover the delights of Roland Haynes’ one and only album 2nd Wave which is a mini masterpiece.

Roland Haynes-2nd Wave.

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