Today, Real Gone Music announced the reissue of a batch of extremely hard-to-find albums from the legendary Black Jazz Records catalogue, due for release on August 28 on CD and LP. The legendary Black Jazz Records was founded in 1969 in Oakland, California by pianist Gene Russell and percussionist Dick Schory and released its first records in summer of 1971. From then on, it became a home for many emerging African-American jazz performers across a range of styles, including free jazz, soul-jazz, funk, fusion, and spiritual jazz. Though it was only around for four years, Black Jazz Records issued a total of twenty albums, bringing Doug Carn, Cleaveland Eaton, Kellee Patterson, and many more to a new audience. Though some titles eventually emerged on CD in Japan back in the ’90s and beyond, they’ve never seen vinyl reissue anywhere, and original copies are immensely rare and desirable, commanding triple-digit figures on the secondary market.
Now, Real Gone Music has struck a deal with Black Jazz Records’ current rights-holders, and will reissue the catalogue on LP, all newly remastered by Mike Milchner at SonicVision Mastering, and pressed on black vinyl at Gotta Groove Records with lacquer cutting by Clint Holley and Dave Polster at Well Made Music. Select CD releases will also be made available. The series is overseen by Real Gone Music’s Gordon Anderson and jazz archivist Zev Feldman. Each title will feature the original iconic black-and-white album artwork and liner notes by Pat Thomas, author of Listen Whitey! The Sights and Sounds of Black Power 1965-1975, which examined the lasting impact of the music and the movement. What’s more, Real Gone Music has pledged to donate $500.00 to the Equal Justice Initiative with each Black Jazz Records release.
Gene Russell’s New Direction was the first Black Jazz release and it’s set for release on RSD Drop Day 1 on August 29. Released exclusively for the event, the album will be pressed on clear vinyl with heavy black swirls and presented in a replica of the original album art. Here, pianist Russell is joined by bassist Henry “The Skipper” Franklin and drummer Steve Clover on the majority of the tracks, with Larry Gates taking over on bass on the opening and closing tracks. While it’s more straight-ahead than the Black Jazz releases to come, there are hints of soul jazz and modal jazz that would inform the label’s trajectory.
Real Gone will also reissue Spirit of the New Land by Doug Carn featuring Jean Carn, due August 28. Doug Carn was the most prolific of the artists on the Black Jazz roster, releasing four albums. Two featured his then-wife, future Philadelphia International Records star Jean Carn. On Spirit of the New Land, he’s joined by saxophonist George Harper, trumpeter Charles Tolliver, trombonist Garnett Brown, tuba player Earl McIntyre, and drummer Alphonse Mouzon. Throughout, Carn showcases his approach to adding words to standards like Miles Davis’ “Blue in Green” and Lee Morgan’s “Search for the New Land,” as well as his composition skills on originals like “Arise and Shine” and “My Spirit,” while Jean’s vocals allow them to take flight. The highly collectible title now arrives on black vinyl with new liner notes by Thomas. And speaking of collectibles, Real Gone Music is offering up 100 copies of the album on clear with black swirl vinyl, available only on their online shop.
On the same day, you’ll be able to find new CD and LP reissues of The Awakening’s Hear, Sense and Feel. The label’s only group, The Awakening had roots in the Chicago jazz movement as part of the AACM (the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians). Featuring AACM members Reggie Willis (bass) and Ari Brown (tenor sax and flute), as well as Young-Holt Unlimited alumni Frank Gordon (trumpet) and Ken Chaney (keys), among others, The Awakening “inhabit[ed] that sweet spot between the free jazz and Afrocentric explorations of the Art Ensemble and [a] rhythm-heavy soul-jazz sound.” Hear, Sense and Feel remains one of the most sought-after releases in the Black Jazz catalog, with rare original copies going for hundred of dollars online. But you won’t have to shell out nearly that much for the new reissue, featuring replica artwork and extensive new liner notes. The label will also press up 100 copies on clear with black swirl vinyl as a Real Gone webstore exclusive release.
Finally, Real Gone is also set to reissue Walter Bishop Jr.’s Coral Keys. In addition to a CD release, black vinyl configuration, and webstore-exclusive clear and black swirl vinyl variant, the label has partnered with the subscription service Vinyl Me, Please to create a subscriber-only, orange and black swirl colorway of the album. As VMP states in their press release, “Bishop Jr.’s piano playing was central to the label’s sound and ethos, and this album was the label’s second-ever release and established the spirit of Black Jazz from the beginning.”
The album features a plethora of talent, with the boundlessly talented Bishop on piano, Harold Vick on flute and sax, Reggie Johnson on bass, Alan Schwartz Benger and Idris Muhammad on drums, and Woody Shaw on trumpet on a handful of tunes. This is definitely an album you won’t want to sleep on – a soul jazz favorite that, like the rest of the Black Jazz catalogue – is exceedingly hard to find. Thankfully, Real Gone Music gives you lots of options to enjoy the music.
In Vinyl Me Please’s press release, there’s mention of an ongoing partnership featuring color vinyl reissues, so there’s no doubt that subscribers will be treated to exclusive colorways from the label vaults as the series progresses. As always, we’ll keep you posted!
So, mark your calendars for August 28 as Real Gone unearths the first batch of Black Jazz Records reissues on CD and vinyl. And don’t forget to let your local record shop know you’re interested in the RSD Drop Day 1-exclusive clear with black swirl copy of Gene Russell’s New Direction! Keep scrolling for order links and track listings for these treasures of ’70s jazz, and don’t miss this video featuring Gordon Anderson, Zev Feldman, and Pat Thomas reflecting on the legacy of Black Jazz!
Walter Bishop, Jr., Coral Keys (originally Black Jazz Records LP BJ/2, 1971 – reissued Real Gone Music, 2020)
CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada / Your Local Record Shop
LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada / Your Local Record Shop
Clear/black swirl LP: Real Gone Music Online Store
Orange/black swirl LP: Vinyl Me Please
- Coral Keys
- Waltz for Zweetie
- Track Down
- Soul Turn Around
- Our November
- Three Loves
- Freedom Suite
The Awakening, Hear, Sense and Feel (originally Black Jazz Records LP BJQD/9, 1972 – reissued Real Gone Music, 2020)
- Awakening – Prologue Spring Thing
- When Will It Ever End
- Kera’s Dance
- Brand New Feeling
- Awakening – Epilogue
Doug Carn featuring Jean Carn, Spirit of the New Land (originally Black Jazz Records LP BJQD/8, 1972 – reissued Real Gone Music, 2020)
- Dwell Like a Ghost
- My Spirit
- Arise and Shine
- Blue in Green
- Trance Dance
- Search for the New Land
- New Moon
Gene Russell, New Direction [clear with black swirl vinyl] (originally Black Jazz Records LP BJ/1, 1971 — reissued Real Gone Music, 2020) (exclusive to Record Store Day RSD Drop 1, find participating stores here)
- Black Orchid
- Hitting The Jug
- Willow Weep For Me
- Listen Here
- On Green Dolphin Street
- Silver’s Serenade
- My Cherie Amour
- Making Bread