Black Jazz Records was founded in Oakland, California in 1969 by jazz pianist Gene Russell. Russell founded the label as an alternative to traditional forms of jazz, invoking a new and fresh alternative that embodied the spirit of the black/urban awakening of the civil rights period. Black Jazz released various types of music including funk, free jazz and soul jazz.
The label existed for a short period (until Russell's passing in 1981) yet managed to change the face of popular jazz music. Black Jazz Records boasted a heavyweight roster of superior instrumentalists and vocalists like Jean Carn (vocalist), Kellee Paterson (vocalist) Rudolph Johnson (saxophone), Calvin Keys (guitar), Walter Bishop, Jr. (piano), Chester Thompson (organ), Henry Franklin (bass), Doug Carn (piano, organ, keyboards) and The Awakening. These artists were supported by a cast of some of America’s most respected jazz musicians. It's most successful act, Doug and Jean Carn recorded three albums embodying several of the most spectacular vocal performances of the era. Their Black Jazz releases remain fan favourites in the rare groove scene, amongst Dj’s, producers and record collectors worldwide and are widely considered spiritual jazz classics. Doug and Jean's demo album ‘Infant Eyes’ was never picked up by a major label, meaning their talent and capabilities went largely unnoticed in their early years. In 1974 Billboard Magazine noted that the duo outsold both Dave Brubeck and Ramsey Lewis, both critically acclaimed artists. In later years Jean Carn would go on to become a successful R&B artist on the Philadelphia Interntional Record label.
In its short life, Black Jazz Records managed to capture not just the sound of a political movement but the heartbeat of the times and people as well. Longevity is fuelled by such things and the label lives on today due to James Hardge hitting the reactivate button in 1986, and more recently Japan's Snow Dog Records saving the master tapes from an uncertain future and inviting sympathetic contemporary artists (such as Gilles Peterson, DJ Muro or Theo Parrish) to contribute to Black Jazz's rich heritage.
Snow Dog Records
Japan's Snow Dog Records rescued the original tapes from an uncertain future and have been busy reissuing the classics and inviting reknowed world diggers to compile and mix their favorites.
Black Jazz Radio on Egotripland.com
BBC broadcast legend Gilles Peterson presents “Black Jazz Radio,” a mix consisting of some of his favorites from the label. Listen to Gilles’ mix and read Snow Dog’s notes on Egotripland.com
Black Jazz on Discogs
Discogs house a huge archive of discographies of all labels, all artists, all cross-referenced, and an international marketplace built off of that database. It's for the love of music, and getting closer every day.
The Best Of Black Jazz Records 1971-1976
An unauthorised compilation from universal sounds. Spiritual, experimental but never too abstract, this is Black Jazz at its best...
History Of Spiritual Jazz 1955-2012
Black Classical has compiled a mammoth 12 hour mix which charts the history of spiritual jazz. Yes, you read that correctly - 12 hours!
Download it here (scroll down for tracklist)