Henry Franklin ‘The Skipper’ (Black Jazz/Snow Dog Japan) 4/5

Among the roster of Black Jazz artists, bassist Henry Franklin is one of the least well known, yet his music is among the subtlest and most lyrical and this album (part of a pair with the skipper theme in their title) is definitely worth investigating. The brass pairing of trumpeter/flugelhornist Oscar Brashear and tenor/soprano saxophonist Charles Owens will be more familiar names and their combined talents along with the keyboarding prowess of Bill Henderson on electric piano result in some beautifully textured grooves that take in mid-1960s Miles and early 1970s Return to Forever from their Latin fusion phase. The highly sensual piece, ‘Theme for Jojo’ has a modal undercurrent to it with dream-like effects on electric piano and this number is not dissimilar to ‘Little B’s Poem’. A lyrical solo from Brashear rounds off proceedings. On ‘Little Miss Laurie’ a minor Latin theme permeates the atmosphere with once again trumpet and saxophone stating the main theme in unison and with some delightful comping from Henderson. For those who like their soul-jazz, there is catchy bassline and ‘Sidewinder’-esque brass riff on ‘Plastic Creek Stomp’ while for those in search of heavier grooves, ‘Beauty and the Electric Tub’ is sure to impress with a pumping bass, electric piano in an essentially supportive role and both trumpet and saxophone free to roam. A minor gem of an album from Henry Franklin that should not be overlooked.

Tim Stenhouse