Gene Russell

Theo Parrish- Theo Parrish’s Black Jazz Signature (Snow Dog Records)

R-5206239-1387445079-3319Don’t let the title of this release fool you, there is no actual music from Theo Parrish on this release. Instead, the legendary DJ picks his favorite deep cuts from the early 70s deep jazz label Black Jazz. With no editing or electronic effects, this compilation serves as a fantastic introduction to one of American jazz’ more obscure off roads and is all the better for the hands off approach from Parrish. Combining elements of funk and soul with more traditional jazz styles, the roster of the label, artists like pianist Doug Cam, keyboardist Gene Russell and guitarist Calvin Keys each offer extended forays into deeply meditative yet equally dance-floor friendly. Parrish’s association as a DJ and selector, lends itself to material, the feeling of leather wraparound booths and strong cocktails becomes apparent as the compilation unfolds. Rather than just atmosphere, the Black Jazz catalog leaves some extremely heavy musical revelations. Russell’s take on “My Favorite Things,” a standard that got new life breathed into it via John Coltrane’s infamous Quartet, here receives an even further out treatment, blasting off into territory heretofore unvisited. Russell’s freely melodic runs create unpredictable turns that sound both futuristic and of its time. “Convulsions,” an original by the Awakening, a piano-driven quartet whose heavy post-bop stands up to the heights of the Impulse catalog in its virtuosity and emotive spiritual leaning, have a few entries in the comp, each a testament to their imaginative playing. Throughout the course of this set ranging from the lounge inspired to the free jazz end of the spectrum, the musicians set forth a musical vision that’s coherent, vibrant and a joy to hear. There’s not a weak cut on this comp so for those unfamiliar, dive in headfirst, there’s no filler. The Black Jazz Signature is essential listening for any jazz head.

by STEVE LOWENTHAL on 2/13/2014 in Reviews | Tags: , , , , ,