Theo Parrish's Black Jazz Signature

Theo Parrish

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Theo Parrish's Black Jazz Signature Review

by Andy Kellman

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. Parrish works with two turntables, as he typically does, and is relatively hands-off. He maintains continuity while shaving only a few seconds from each cut. The set plays out like a vigorous, uptempo Black Jazz super session. Four selections come from the two albums released by the Awakening, a group from Parrish's hometown of Chicago. Three consecutive Awakening cuts act as a showcase for the versatility of unheralded pianist and leader Ken Chaney (known most for his playing on Young-Holt Unlimited's "Soulful Strut," he passed away in late 2012), who moves from funky and complex electric piano on "March On," to darting beneath Frank Gordon and Richard Brown's horns on "Convulsions," to driving the speedy "Jupiter." While Parrish just about eliminates himself from the equation, this mix will appeal the most to fans of his work who know the funk, disco, and house stuff well enough but haven't traced back far enough to fully absorb an earlier, eternally vibrant form.

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