In 1969, pianist Gene Russell and percussionist Dick Schory founded a revolutionary record label in Oakland, Calif., that personified a new sophisticated approach to jazz that embraced the era’s black power and pan-African movements.
The Black Jazz label featured young black artists and jazz that wasn’t entirely acoustic but certainly not fusion. The music was culturally rich, geared to the newly emerging FM radio dial and guided by a new sense of what it meant to be creative, intellectual and black.
Photo of Doug and Jean Carn, prior to a concert at New York’s Lincoln Center, c. 1975
I bought many of the 20 vinyls LPs that were released on the label between 1971 and 1975, and I acquired them all digitally over the years. Each album is a soulful adventure and remains a vivid snapshot of the black jazz scene in the early 1970s.
Among Black Jazz’s most popular artists was keyboardist Doug Carn, who with Jean Carn, his wife at the time, recorded four excellent albums. All remain classics, not only for the deeply moving music recorded but for the boldness with which they diverged from the usual thing and how hard they worked to create their own sound.
The four albums Carn recorded with Jean Carn were Infant Eyes, Spirit of the New Land, Revelation and Adam’s Apple. Each is a masterpiece. Carn’s work on the organ and piano as well as his compositions and vision for executing the albums are remarkable. Doug and Jean Carn’s recordings could be as peaceful and as tender as a resting cat while others were stormy and tumultuous. Through Doug’s music with Jean, one could hear the growing impatience with the country’s institutional racism and the duo’s identification with Africa’s culture and history.
The Black Jazz catalog doesn’t appear to be available digitally (though I own all 20 releases digitally). I have no idea who owns the Black Jazz catalog, but I hope they make the 20 albums available, digitally, soon.