Yesterday’s show was a winner. We payed rightful tribute to Paul Bley with some of his solo work, trio work and his work as part of the Jimmy Giuffre 3. We also sent a big ol’ HBD to the great Max Roach, spinning cuts from his days with Atlantic Records as well as his timeless work with Clifford Brown as the Brown & Roach Quintet. Perhaps the most exciting piece though was played towards the end of the four o’clock hour.
In 1976, pianist Harry Whitaker, a player of relative obscurity, recorded two long cuts, enough to make a full length album, under the name Black Renaissance. Working with him were, among others, Woody Shaw, Azar Lawrence, David Schnitter, Buster Williams & Billy Hart. That collection of talent on one record alone would be enough to earn a cult following. But there’s more to the story. Whitaker sent the tapes off to Japan to be privately pressed and sent back to him for personal sales. Someone in Japan stole the tapes and the music was eventually released on Japan’s Baystate Records, without Whitaker receiving any money for the album’s sales. Still, while not a hit record by any stretch, it’s reputation for being an epic in the spiritual jazz sub-genre grew, and over the years, record collectors began shelling out hundreds of dollars for a copy of the album, long out of print. Luckily, Luv n’ Haight Records has reissued the classic LP for new listeners at a far more affordable price, and on lush red vinyl no less. We spun the A-Side yesterday, “Black Renaissance,” and at 23-plus minutes long, to call it epic is fair. The structure is built around Buster Williams’ funky bass riff and Whitaker’s thick chords; each player given a song’s worth of time to stretch out on a solo and make the song their own. And just when you think the cut is over, Williams comes back and begins again. It’s a perfect time-capsule for jazz in 1976, with elements of the spiritual, funk, free and modal jazz all showing themselves over the course of the song. Woody Shaw’s trumpet solo alone is worth the price of admission. Luckily, you can listen to it (again and again) on youtube. Here’s THE LINK. ENJOY!