Various Artists

The Best of Black Jazz Records 1971-1976

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Universal Sound's Best of Black Jazz 1971-1976 is a monumental album that pays tribute to the struggle of an independent jazz label in difficult economic times. The label was able to put out 20 records in five years before folding. The tracks are selected from these recordings, made mainly by unheard of musicians. Most of these recordings wouldn't have been made, let alone reissued, without the commitment to creativity that Black Jazz records had. Surprisingly, there isn't one track that stands out and outshines any of the others on the album. This is perhaps a testament to the record label's consistency. The songs selected for this compilation lean closer to the jazz end of the funk/jazz spectrum, and occasionally dip into free jazz. All tracks stick close to the groove and make a classic blend of funk and jazz. The well-blended and evolving style seems to announce the arrival of the '70s. There is a kind of freedom in the songs that allows the sound to be taken in any direction. This points out the value of independent record labels and their commitment to the music, rather than to the business. The musicians should be given equal credit, but with the consistency of this compilation, it is obvious that the Black Jazz Records had the right stance and objectives to make good creative music. The gamble that independent label's can take certainly paid off for Black Jazz Records, and has allowed for an outstanding retrospect to be compiled. This retrospect will give further life to music that deserves far wider recognition than it received when it was first released.