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Various Artists - Free Soul: The Classics of Black Jazz 

During the liberation-minded years of the 1970s, many black musicians attempted to create a self-sufficient infrastructure to ensure their artistic freedom. One of the most successful efforts was the Black Jazz label from Chicago. Black Jazz operated from 1971 through 1976 as an outlet for progressive, independent jazz that was firmly rooted in the African American community. Over the years, its releases have been recognized as some of the most soulful, forward-thinking records of their time and highly valued by collectors. But with the death of label founder Gene Russell, Black Jazz’s catalog fell out of print and was largely inaccessible until recent times.

Free Soul: the Classics of Black Jazz is a generous 16 track overview of the Black Jazz legacy assembled by JVC. With a roster that ranged from the vocal stylings of Kellee Patterson to the expansive vision of Doug Carn, there was no signature sound for Black Jazz, but all releases shared a sense of groove and serious musicianship. The opening “Blue Lights” by bassist Henry Franklin serves as the ideal introduction to the disc, a driving composition highlighted by a soaring saxophone line. Russell is represented with "Get Down" and an interpretation of “My Favorite Things.” 

There are no shortage of classic tunes like Doug Carn’s “Higher Ground” and “Little B’s Poem” (voiced by a young Jean Carne), “Mode For D.D.” by The Awakening, and future Tower Of Power member Chester Thompson coming through with the heavy "Power House." Other selections from label mainstays Rudolph Johnson, Walter Bishop Jr. and Calvin Keys ensure each artist on the label receives recognition. A loving tribute to one of the great jazz labels and worth checking out by fans of the similiarly-themed Tribe and Strata East. 

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