Week ending 30 November 2019: jazz in the 1970s

Full service is resumed! Cosmic Jazz is back on the Mixcloud tab once more. Tonight’s show was a pre-record and – as is so often the case in these circumstances – we take a journey back to some great tunes from the past.

A good place to start is the 1970s – often seen as a decade of watered down jazz subject to the corrupting influences of soul, funk and disco. The reality is far from this. Whilst some artists clearly ‘sold out’ and sought to popularise their music through a tokenistic application of these outside influences, other musicians created new sounds whilst remaining in the tradition. From that decade much music has been re-released, often on independent British labels. It’s not always the well-known names that are featured either. A case in point is keyboard player Walter Bishop Jr. Raised in Harlem, Bishop played with the likes of Art Blakey, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and others. From the early 60s he led his own band and recorded two albums for the Black Jazz label in the early 1970s. After a spell teaching in Los Angeles he returned to New York and signed with Muse records for whom he made five albums between 1975-79. The Soul Village album of 1977 was one of these. Re-released in 2014 by the superb Soul Brother Records in the UK, Soul Turnaround was one of four tunes on the album that he had previously recorded on Black Jazz.

Saxophone elder Gary Bartz has raised his profile in recent years, thanks to some excellent recordings and an appearance at this year’s inaugural We Out Here festival where he shared the stage with British newcomers and CJ favourites Maisha. Back again in the UK this month, he headlined at the London Jazz Festival and is apparently currently in the studio with Maisha. We await the results with interest! In the 1970s Bartz was recording with Miles Davis – most notably on the Live Evil album. The full 6CD Cellar Door set has Bartz throughout and, whilst it’s not the most indispensable of the Davis box sets, it’s worth a listen. Separately at this time, Bartz was recording with his Ntu Troop band on Milestone Records – including two excellent Harlem Bush Music albums, now available on one BGP label compilation. Celebrated vocalist Andy Bey is featured on Celestial Blues, a tune he recorded again on his Experience and Judgment album. You can compare it here.

The Black Jazz label has its own story to tell. For a label that lasted only a little over five years, it has a sizeable footprint in the world of jazz. Founded by Oakland based pianist and producer Gene Russell, the Black Jazz imprint stood apart from bland middle of the road jazz styles and aligned firmly to the rise of black consciousness and the electric experimentations of Miles Davis and others.

More than that, Black Jazz records of the 1970s were all issued in a surround-sound Quadraphonic version and so the recording quality was often much higher than for other independent labels. Gene Russell died young in 1981 and left the catalogue in limbo but tracks were already being adopted by UK acid jazzers and hip-hop musicians in the early ’90s before the whole catalogue was reissued by Japanese speciality label Snow Dog Records between 2012-13. Label compilations from Gilles Peterson and Theo Parrish (which we have sourced for this week’s CJ selection) have spread the word and you’ll find a great selection of ten excellent Black Jazz albums in this Vinyl Factory feature.

From the Peterson record Black Jazz Radio, we have chosen a Henry Franklin track and from Parrish’s Black Jazz Signature there is a tune from Rudolph Johnson. Both compilations are essential listening.

It is easy in jazz to leave out the greatest and try to spread the word of those that have been forgotten or overlooked, but here on Cosmic Jazz  we try to do both. There is always time for John Coltrane and we try to represent the many phases of his work. The album Stellar Regions was recorded in February 1967 and so is among Coltrane’s last recordings. Not released until 1995, it showcases some of the more lyrical music Coltrane was making in his later years. We chose the fire and fury of the alternate take of Sun Star with Alice Coltrane on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Rashied Ali on drums. Our illustration is a take on the album cover by Danish artist K Pakula.

The show ended with more from a DJ compilation and music released originally on the Muse label. Colin Curtis has been based in the North-West of England but has travelled far beyond and has been playing what the title of his 2CD compilation calls Jazz Dance Fusion for many years. The final two tunes came from Disc One of this release and featured firstly guitarist Ron Eschete , with Carol Eschete on vocals and then percussionist Emmanuel K. Rahim and his band The Kahliqs.

  1. Walter Bishop Jr. – Soul Turnaround from Soul Turnaround
  2. Gary Bartz Ntu Troop – Celestial Blues from Harlem Bush Music
  3. Henry Franklin – Beauty & the Electric Tub from Gilles Peterson – Black Jazz Radio
  4. Rudolph Johnson – Time & Space from Theo Parrish’s Black Jazz Signature
  5. John Coltrane – Sun Star (Alternate Take) from Stellar Regions
  6. Ron Eschete – To Let You Know from Colin Curtis Presents Jazz Dance Fusion
  7. Emmanuel Rahim & the Kahliqs – Spirit of Truth from Colin Curtis Presents Jazz Dance Fusion

Derek is listening to… 

Neil is listening to…

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