A bassist and producer, Henry Franklin is a great representative of fusion and free jazz in the early 1970’s. Although his name does not have the cool factor that many of his contemporaries, and he plays the least glamorous (but most important) of the jazz instruments, he has had a career that spans many decades and is filled with accolades and achievements. His name may not be mentioned with the most common names in jazz, but make no mistake, this west coast jazzman has one of the most solid and consistent sounds in an era filled with abstract and free flowing jazz experimentation. He had a few releases as a frontman, but he featured, played, and produced on hundreds of albums and recorded with heavyweights such as Bobbi Humphrey, Stevie Wonder, and most notably, Hugh Masekela.
Similar to the Roy Ayers produced group RAMP, Henry Franklin was rediscovered by A Tribe Called Quest, when his baseline was sampled for the song called The Hop off Tribe’s Beats, Rhymes, and Life album. The Henry Franklin song was entitled Soft Spirit off his The Skipper At Home album.
This album also comes with the reputation of greatness, solely based on the label Black Jazz Records. Black Jazz Records was a smaller, lesser known west coast based jazz label that had a great tradition of releasing soulful, spiritual, funk filled jazz and spoken word that promoted the heritage of African American upliftment, spirituality, and freedom through sound and gospel. Most of the Black Jazz releases had the characteristic black and white photo cover with a thick border, as seen on this particular release.
The Skipper is his one of Franklin’s earliest releases, and it proves to be a landmark album for an excellent bassist, who is still lives among us today. Personnel for this album includes Drums – Mike Carvin, Bill Henderson – Electric Piano, Kenny Climax – Guitar, Henry Franklin – Bass, Fred Lido and Tip Jones – Percussion, Charles Owens – Soprano and Tenor Saxophone, and Oscar Brasheer – Trumpet and Flugelhorn.