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After starting their own vital outlets for buyers and sellers of vintage music recordings — Collectors’ Choice Music and Hep Cat Records & Distribution — Gordon Anderson and Gabby Castellana came together to create Real Gone Music. As their site explains, Real Gone is “a reissue label dedicated to serving both the collector community and the casual music fan with a robust release schedule combining big-name artists with esoteric cult favorites.” In celebration of Black Music Month, these six records from Real Gone’s Black Jazz catalog are available in the VMP store now; learn more about the collection below.
The six Black Jazz records included are Henry Franklin’s The Skipper, Gene Russell’s Talk To My Lady, Doug Carn’s Spirit of the New Land, Rudolph Johnson’s The Second Coming, The Awakening’s Hear, Sense and Feel and Walter Bishop Jr.’s 4th Cycle’s Keeper of My Soul. “By the early ’70s, jazz was no longer the it genre for Black popular music. Thanks to James Brown and Sly & The Family Stone, funk had become the Next Big Thing,” said Marcus J. Moore, a music journalist covering jazz at the New York Times and hip-hop director at VMP. “Not only did Black Jazz recall the best days of the famed Blue Note Records label, its artists pushed the genre forward, blending soul, jazz and spirituality in the most fluid ways. These albums are a snapshot of the underground label. The music released here was some of the best the genre had to offer.”
For The Skipper, Henry Franklin crafted a unique, organic recording that doesn’t compare to anything else: Blending fusion and ’60s Blue Note, it harbored the upbeat style of Miles Davis’ Electric Years, making for a joyous listen that blended funk and jazz with stellar results.
You can get the VMP edition of 'The Skipper' here.
In between acting as producer on all of the Black Jazz label releases, keyboardist Gene Russell also made two of his own albums for the imprint. Talk To My Lady was the second LP, released in 1973. Talk to My Lady represented a stylistic leap for Russell; here, he’s leading an electric band and playing a number of original, soul jazz compositions like “Get Down” and the title tune. As for the covers, both “Me and Mrs. Jones” and “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” are heartfelt renditions given a little extra bounce by Russell’s ivory tickling and Henry Franklin’s expressive bass playing, while the version of “My Favorite Things” goes way out beyond what John Coltrane played on his original Atlantic studio version.
You can get the VMP edition of 'Talk To My Lady' here.
Doug Carn was the most prolific artist on Black Jazz Records, releasing four albums for the label. In 1972, he put forth his second LP on Black Jazz, Spirit of the New Land, a vast epic featuring the voice of his wife, Jean Carn. With an all-star cast, the record was meant to uplift in times of crises, and it stands as perhaps the most sought-after album in Carn’s vast discography.
You can get the VMP edition of 'Spirit of the New Land' here.
The album title is apt, as this was saxophonist Rudolph Johnson’s second album for the Black Jazz label (and this reissue marks only the second time this 1973 album has been released on vinyl). Johnson never attained the commercial success of some of his contemporaries, but his fans consider him the rightful heir to John Coltrane’s improvisational genius. And with keyboardist Kirk Lightsey in the band for this album, sparks are gonna fly. The Second Coming barely nods to the fusion and soul jazz trends that were sweeping the genre at the time. Instead, this is expressive, free improvisation at its best, beautifully recorded by producer Gene Russell and deserving of a much wider audience than it found the first time.
You can get the VMP edition of 'The Second Coming' here.
The Chicago-based The Awakening were the only band to release an album on Black Jazz. Having formed their roots in the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, the band was a big piece of the city's thriving soul-jazz scene. This album split the difference between free jazz and polyrhythmic funk, bringing the famed Cadet Records to mind while landing on something different. Original copies of this album sold for hundreds of dollars. This reissue resurfaces a group worthy of deeper dissection and reflection.
You can get the VMP edition of 'Hear, Sense and Feel' here.
Keyboardist Walter Bishop Jr. recorded the second album ever released by the Black Jazz label, Coral Keys, a Blue Note-style LP infused with ’70s soul-jazz. But two years later, Bishop Jr. brought a whole new sound and a whole new band into the studio for 1973’s Keeper of My Soul. Contrary to the album title, the name of the band was not The 4th Cycle; instead, as the liner notes put it, the name reflected “Bishop’s composition and improvisational techniques based on the Cycle of 4ths and his various personal musical cycles as performer, student and teacher.” The album also was imbued with a spirituality owed in part to his studies with yogi Parmahansa Yogananda; little wonder, then, that Keeper of My Soul was a more ambitious, electric, and “out” record than its predecessor, an intriguing leap forward for Bishop Jr. and his sound.
You can get the VMP edition of 'Keeper of My Soul' here.