Release Date: Sep 3, 2013
Record label: Snow Dog Records
Genre(s): Electronic, Jazz, Soul Jazz, Spiritual Jazz
Theo Parrish is a top-tier DJ who switches between decades and styles with unmatched fluidity. It's fascinating to hear him work here with a very specific and small set of albums -- seven, to be exact, all of which were released during 1971-1973 on a small but substantial label run by pianist and producer Gene Russell. Black Jazz Signature trails Gilles Peterson's Black Jazz Radio and DJ Muro's Diggin' Black Jazz as a complement to Snow Dog's thorough Black Jazz reissue series, but there's only one selection here -- Rudolph Johnson's "The Highest Pleasure" -- that appears on those previous mixes.
I'm just gonna say this right off the bat: I don't know that much about jazz. I've always liked it, and there are a few (fairly obvious) albums I put on with some regularity, but I never really made the plunge into full-blown jazz appreciation. I take it the same is true for a good many electronic music fans. Jazz is obviously a huge influence on countless DJs and producers, and devotees of the two genres share a lot in common.
Founded in 1971, Black Jazz Records’ original run was sadly short, drawn to a halt by the death of co-founder Gene Russell in 1976 (it has since been reincarnated). Russell appeared frequently on recordings as a pianist and is said to have been the defining voice of the label, creating an outlet for African American jazz that distinctly embraced political and spiritual ideas; funk, soul, free jazz and other genres were all embraced in doing so, the label’s home of Los Angeles no doubt adding to its voice. After last year’s Black Jazz Radio, mix by Gilles Peterson, Snow Dog Records have this time selected autodidactic jazz master Theo Parrish to choose and mix his own personal favourites from the label’s early catalogue.
Not so much a polymath as a polyglot, Theo Parrish has been treading the relatively unexplored ground between American soul and the avant-garde via his chosen medium of Detroit techno and house for some two decades. It's this very universal understanding, and subsequent subversion of commonplace approaches to both dance music rhythms and melodies, that Parrish shares with artists on early 70s Californian Afro-jazz label Black Jazz. As a complement to the ongoing series of Black Jazz reissues by the Japan-based Snow Dog Records, this album is the label's fourth DJ mix built entirely from Black Jazz source material.