All of your favorites, in one place.
This collection of rare album artwork reflects the independent energy of the African American jazz movement. Located in the heart of Soho in London, Soul Jazz Records is a musical oasis. While many of the quality record shops that once graced this area have closed their doors Soul Jazz seems to go from strength to strength. Stuart Baker and his partner Karen Tate oversee a thriving business which is driven by their own tastes and beliefs. A pragmatic duo, they recognize that the survival of Soul Jazz depends on their ability to manoeuvre through the radical changes in the record industry. They have experienced the transition from vinyl to CDs to digital and are open to diversifying, providing it’s in tune with the spirit of what has made them a globally successful label. Soul Jazz has already published a couple of books including Beth Lesser’s acclaimed Dancehall: The Rise of Jamaican Dancehall Culture. This latest book, Freedom Rhythm & Sound is a reflection on loss and what it means if these rather obscure vinyl artefacts vanish from our lives. Subtitled Radical Art for Radical Music this book is collaboration between Stuart and DJ Gilles Peterson. Boasting a bright yellow hardback cover, it is a lavish book that presents an amazing and unique collection of cover artwork of revolutionary jazz from independent labels that existed between 1963 and 1983. “At first it was just something I had in my head”, reflects Stuart. “There was something going on that brought all these albums together and when I pulled them all off the shelf, they were all independent productions, all made by African American musicians, the music was between funk and avant garde and it was music as art - not market led. It all started to make sense.” Many of the LPs depicted in this book were produced in very small runs and have been lost in time. What Freedom Rhythm & Sound represents is the energy of the collective spirit and the impact of Black Power, as opposed to Civil Rights, on African American culture. The albums and the imagery they convey show a host of artists - John & Alice Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, Steve Reid, Tribe, Sun Ra, Oliver Lake, Edward Larry Gordon, The Pyramids, Milford Graves, The Last Poets, Weldone Irvine, Mtume Umoja Ensemble et al - actively seeking and drawing strength from their roots but also empowering themselves physically, culturally and economically. If the club owners couldn’t handle their music then they would retreat to the lofts or stage concerts in the street. If corporate record labels rejected them they would create their own labels, their own artworks. “The imagery in this book deals with Africa, Egypt…with ideas and concepts. There are great illustrations. The graphics are lo-fi and funky”, asserts Stuart. “A lot of the album sleeves have one colour - black and white - which is to do with economy. It’s DIY and being pre-computers they all have a particular aesthetic.” While Stuart has an extensive vinyl collection he felt the project would benefit from the involvement of another vinyl obsessed aficionado: “The only other person who I knew that was familiar with this stuff - instinctively - was Gilles. So, I thought I’d see if he wanted to do it with me. He has a non intellectual path to the music. That’s his strength. As a DJ he is drawn intuitively to Afrocentric music, music that you can dance to and in many respects his approach mirrors the debates that were going on between the musicians whose albums feature in this book. For example, Phil Cohran (the father of the guys in the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble) left the AACM (Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) because it wasn’t Afrocentric enough. He wanted to make music that was rhythmical. It’s a debate that’s been going on since be-bop.” These two music lovers have pursued parallel but interrelated paths for over two decades. Inevitably, whenever they delve into their respective collections they drop tune after tune that you’ve never heard before. An accompanying CD compilation of this cosmic music, Freedom Rhythm & Sound, Revolutionary Jazz in the USA 1965-80, completes the circle.