Later this year, we’ll be presenting the complete works of psychedelic jazz ensemble Stark Reality’s complete works as a box set. This will be the first time that all of Stark Reality’s music will be available on vinyl and CD. Included will be the entirety of their AJP-issued album The Stark Reality Discovers Hoagy Carmichael’s Music Shop, their out-of-print 1969 (first issued on this label in 2003), and a series of unreleased tracks discovered by Porter Records’ Luke Mosling. Below he describes the discovery of these three crucial songs, which we are pleased to issue for the first time on Now-Again.
“While spending some time in Philadelphia in 2005, I had heard rumors from some of the old-school jazz musicians that drummer and music educator J. R. Mitchell (1937-2004), had a vast collection of reel to reel tapes that he had been recording and acquiring since the late 60’s of his own music and the music of his friends and colleagues. Some time latter I contacted the Mitchell estate and “yes” there were indeed boxes and boxes of tapes. A meeting was arranged for me to go through and archive the material during my next visit to Philly. As I was digging though one box of tapes after another, I came across a plain looking reel to reel tape box with the words “Stark Reality” written faintly in ball point pen. My jaw hit the floor at this unexpected but much welcomed find.
I figured J. R. might have acquired the tape from his time in Boston (Stark Reality’s home town) while J. R. was at the Berklee College of Music. There were only three tracks listed “On Being Black” “Red Yellow Moonbeams” and “New World Generation”. “On Being Black” and “New World Generation” were not familiar tracks to me so I knew that I had to get the music transferred and do some detective work to find out more about the tracks. Once the music was transferred and I heard the music, I was blown away. Here was Stark Reality sounding right at home with their super tight grooves but set within a big-band context.
I happen to know Stark Reality bassist Phil Morrison, so I sent Phil the music to hear. He, like everyone else, had completely forgotten about the recording but was certainly thrilled that it had been found. While I wish that there was a full list of information about the music; personal, recording date, recording location, engineer, etc., not much is remembered about the actual recording date and no physical evidence of the recording seems to exist outside of the single reel to reel tape found. When it comes to music, at some point you need to face the facts that some information is just gone and only the music exist.
I’m greatly saddened that Stark Reality drummer Vinnie Johnson has passed away between when the tape was found and when the project was released. In Loving-Kindness to Vinnie, you will be missed.”