Reporter's Notebook: Hanging out with Haze

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This week's cover story tells the story of one woman who took a record doomed for a Dumpster and went on a five-year quest to find the band. That band happens to be Haze, a 1970s funk/soul band from the Twin Cities.

If you haven't had the pleasure of spending time with the Haze band members, you are missing one heck of a treat. We got the opportunity to attend some of the weekly get-togethers since they reunited late last year and had a blast. Check out one story that didn't make it in this week's print addition.

Step into Haze's weekly meeting spot in the St. Paul condo complex and you've gone back to the 1970s. A 1970s being relived by middle-aged men. Since Shelley Pierce talked to the band last year, the members have been gathering every Thursday as if their 35-year gap never existed. If you're lucky enough to get invited, it's like walking into the best family reunion imaginable.

The room is already buzzing as Peter and Paul Johnson introduce new arrivals to the crowd. Their second album, now on CD, blares from a boombox in a corner.

Solomon Hughes busts through the front door, arms overflowing with equipment, photo albums and a camera. His dreads are pulled back in a woven hat and he smiles ear-to-ear.

"Hey! Hey! I made it! Sorry I'm late everyone, kept forgetting things."

Peter Johnson slaps him on the back before grabbing some of the photo albums in his arms.

Willy Thomas just laughs.

"We had so much in common," he says. "We grew together. We were just kids and became young men and musicians. You never lose that."

Haze isn't just hanging out each week. They are making plans to officially release their second album that never made it to record stands. And this time they are doing it their way. Hughes passes around the album liner notes they created. In 1978, the album was self-titled. Today it's called "Haze II: Resurrection."

"Now we're all together, we're all healthy, we're all still musically minded," Paul Johnson says. "We've been preserved; we've been kept. We feel there is a destiny that awaits us that is going to close that circle."

Peter Johnson leans over one of the photo albums laid out on a table.

"That's me!" he says, pointing to a photo from 1974 where he is sporting 52-inch bellbottoms, heeled boots, and a perfectly sculpted afro.

He laughs when Thomas looks at the photo and then back at him. Peter Johnson is wearing a baseball cap and baggy sweatshirt. His reading glasses hang from his neck. He gets the point.

"We got a little heavy around the middle, but I guarantee you that when this thing takes off for us, it's going to be easy to get back in shape," Peter Johnson says.

In many ways, Haze did make it. Sevier of Numero Group says he has no doubt they were a vital part of Minneapolis music that slipped under the radar when Prince hit the scene. But to the band, they were so close to making it big and trusted too many people trying to take advantage of their naivety.

"We had our hand on the brass ring, we were right there at the door, ready to walk through," Paul Johnson says. "The circumstances weren't conducive to us doing that. The circle was not completed."

Haze plans to release their second album in March, hoping to sell it exclusively off a Web site they are designing.

"We don't know what's going to happen, not a clue," Peter Johnson says, hardly containing his smile. "Everything that we need has come. Whatever is coming, we have faith. But this time no one is calling the shots but us."

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