Real Gone Music is continuing its series of reissues of the Black Jazz label, founded by Gene Russell and Dick Schory in 1969. The company released twenty albums between 1971 and 1975 and two of them will see new reissues on Real Gone, tomorrow, July 30: 1973's Mirage by The Awakening and Henry Franklin's The Skipper At Home from 1974.
The Awakening was the lone group on Black Jazz. They only recorded two albums together and both were for the label. The band consisted of Richard "Ari "Brown (saxophone), Ken Chaney (keyboard, piano), Arlington Davis Jr. (drums, percussion), Steve Galloway (trombone, percussion), Frank Gordon (trumpet) and Roger Willis (bass). The Awakening had roots in the Chicago jazz movement as part of the AACM (the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians), founded in 1965 and devoted to "to nurturing, performing, and recording serious, original music," according to their charter. The Awakening's first album, Hear, Sense and Feel was released in 1972 and consisted of material written primarily by members of the group. That trend continued with 1973's Mirage with all of the album's seven songs being composed by band members. For their sophomore effort, they were joined by several musicians: bassist Rufus Reid, percussionist Drasheer Khalid and vocalists Anita Jeffries and Ben Wright. The album would be a little more abstract and less political than their debut LP with varied moods and textures. After Mirage, the group would disband and return to studio work or the AACM. A compilation album, Brand New Feeling, was released in 1976 on Ovation Records.
Henry "The Skipper" Franklin released two albums on Black Jazz and also made appearances on several other albums on the label from artists such as Doug Carn, Gene Russell, Calvin Keys, and more. The bassist was born in Los Angeles in 1940 and appeared on several Hugh Masekela albums in the late 1960s. His first appearances on Black Jazz came in 1971 and his first headlining effort, The Skipper, was released in 1972. Two years later, The Skipper At Home hit shelves. Franklin brought back several of the players from his inaugural album including trumpeter/flugelhornist Oscar Brashear, tenor/soprano saxophonist Charles Owens, and pianist Bill Henderson (here billed as Kemang Sunduza). He was also joined on the record by keyboardist Kirk Lightsey, trombonist Al Hall, Jr. and drummer Leon 'Ndugu' Chancler. The six songs on the LP are performed in styles rooted in bop and feature a trio of writers: three by Al Hall Jr., two by keyboardist David Durrah and one by Chick Corea. Franklin would stay with Black Jazz through 1975 when the label folded. He continued being a session player while also releasing albums of his own for labels such as Catalyst, Daagnim, and Beezwax Records. His last record was in 2015 on his own Skipper Productions, The Happiness of Pursuit.
Both The Awakening's Mirage and Henry Franklin's The Skipper At Home are being reissued by Real Gone on both CD and vinyl. For Mirage, it marks the album's first reissue on vinyl and for The Skipper At Home, its first reissue in that format outside of Japan. Both titles feature remastering by Mike Milchner at SonicVision and new liner notes by Pat Thomas. In addition to regular black vinyl, Mirage is available exclusively from Zia Records in orange with black swirl vinyl, limited to 300 copies. The Skipper At Home also has a vinyl variant available: orange with black streaks vinyl, limited to 750 copies and exclusive to independent record stores. If you would like to give either of these titles a try, we've got the full tracklistings and preorder links below.
The Awakening, Mirage (Originally released as Black Jazz Records LP BJQD/15, 1973 - reissued Real Gone Music, 2021) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada)
- Mode for D.D.
- The Ultimate Frontier
- Just a Little Peace
- Glory to the Sun
- March On
Henry Franklin, The Skipper At Home (Originally released as Black Jazz Records LP BJQD/17, 1974 - reissued Real Gone Music, 2021) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada)
- Blue Lights
- What Was
- Soft Spirit
- The Magic Boy
- Venus Fly Trap
- Waltz for Boobuss
Skipper at Home is a great album. Got both of these, haven't played Mirage yet...