Real jazz in the ‘70s and ‘80s had a hard time commercially, with the majors downgrading their investment in the music and concentrating on safe reissues, more easily accessible fusion, and areas more lucrative than jazz altogether. But at the same time, there was an efflorescence and democratization of the music.
The black nationalist politics of the late ‘60s had registered a profound influence on the consciousness of the United States, and the music was reclaimed for black audiences, with a plethora of community-oriented artists putting out intense, committed, recordings on small independent labels … the ‘private press’, hence the ‘private jazz’ you hold in your hands. Whilst jazz education course began to take off at colleges, and independently-minded community radio DJs would support the music, it rarely had distribution. For many of the tracks here, the main sales would’ve been directly from the performer to the public, at gigs.
Meanwhile, in the UK, where jazz had been part of an underground, cutting-edge youth culture at least as far back as the ‘modernist’ 1950s, a selected group of DJs on the jazz-funk and soul scene that exploded, with countless club-nights and all-dayers, at the end of the ‘70s, started to dig a little deeper for their tunes.
One such was our compiler Kev Beadle, who went from being a punter on the scene to a prime mover-and-shaker. Kev attended all the important jazz-dance nights that sprang up in pub backrooms like The Horseshoe and Soho dives like The Wag (where he would soon begin a residency himself). Kev was very much involved with propagating the music and expanding the scene with his promotion at The Belvedere in Richmond, and then, most famously, the afternoon sessions at Dingwalls alongside Bob Jones and Gilles Peterson. He was also involved in the early days of the Southport Weekender, where he now has a major role as programmer of its Beat Bar room.
Kev’s expertise was in demand with record companies: he compiled a series culled from the Argo/Cadet archives for Charly (mostly funky soul-jazz) as well as an important retrospective of Terry Callier, and jazz-funk and soul from the Capitol vaults for Blue Note.
Many of the tunes we present here first got an airing outside of their home states at those legendary club sessions, where the music changed from its earlier emphasis on hard-bop and bossa to modal, spiritual and ‘cosmic’ jazz. It’s fair to say few of their creators probably ever imagined they were making dancefloor hits, but Kev and his DJ contemporaries blazed a trail there that the music is still registering.
These tunes were rarely found outside of the hands of a few enterprising record-dealers, specialist record shops, and latterly, internet auctions. Kev Beadle’s desire to push the boat out musically led him to most of these tunes two decades ago, but for most listeners, the music will be experienced as upfront and progressive.
It’s an uncompromising collection, making accessible music that has never really received the truly wide audience it deserves highlighting a range of artists representing yet another chapter in black America’s fascinating musical history.