Tuesday, March 09, 2021

Henry Franklin - The Skipper (Black Jazz Music, 1971; re-issue, Real Gone Music, 2021)

The re-issuing of the catalog of the Black Jazz record label sheds some much needed light on the music of an proudly independent label, and the musicians that recorded for it. Henry Franklin was a bassist who had notable sideman associations with Willie Bobo, The Three Sounds and Hugh Masekela. For his debut album as a leader, he brought together a band consisting of Oscar Brashear on trumpet and flugelhorn, Charles Owens on tenor and soprano saxophones, Bill Henderson on electric piano and Michael Carvin on drums and percussion. Open to mixing intensely free music as on the opening track “Outbreak” with that of a subtle groove born of Franklin's well played electric bass (also doubling very well on acoustic) and Henderson's fender rhodes piano, they mix acoustic and electronic with style and panache. Long tones of brass and reeds can frame the sounds as well as erupt into riffs and pithy solos, complementing the overall sound of the band. Owens's tenor and soprano saxophones offer different approaches with “Theme for JoJo” getting a particularly beautiful soprano saxophone solo on this track. The music is also capable of lush warmth through well constructed arrangements, which serve as a framework for “Beauty and the Electric Tub” with it's urgent bass line, cascading drums and harmonizing horns. Ripe swirling solos are pushed by relentless bass and drums, with a strong full band march to the finish line. The subtle “Little Miss Laurie” offers a softer touch, developing a gentle saxophone feature, restrained trumpet over a bed of electric piano and bass, leading to the concluding track, “The Skipper” which builds a memorable and forlorn melody, with the horns swaying, opening to an impressive saxophone solo, which is complex and intricate. Beams of trumpet add further texture to the performance as do spare eclectic piano stylings, then returning to the quiet and patient melody, graceful and pure. This album worked quite well, and showed the talented band playing in a multitude of styles in a thoughtful and creative way. Melding electric and acoustic stylings gives the group the freedom they need to bring their music into existence. The Skipper - amazon.com

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