Jun 27, 2010

King Kong – All African Jazz Opera

barabara sounds sez:
The last of this series of S.African posts: the seminal jazz opera that launched the international careers – and extended exiles – of both Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela. This is the recording of the 1959 original cast (there was also an album from the London cast), from the CD reissue on Celluloid. It's more of an artifact than a must-listen but there are some fine tracks. And the first – Sad times, bad times – is a classic. It's also wonderful to hear Mama Africa in one of her earliest recordings... Essential!!

wiki sez:
King Kong had an all-black cast. The musical portrayed the life and times of a heavyweight boxer, Ezekiel Dlamini, known as "King Kong". Born in 1921, after a meteoric boxing rise, his life degenerated into drunkenness and gang violence. He knifed his girlfriend, asked for the death sentence during his trial and instead was sentenced to 14 years hard labour. He was found drowned in 1957 and it was believed his death was a suicide. He was 36. This musical was a hit in South Africa in 1959 and played at the Princes Theatre in the West End of London in 1961.

track list:
Sad times, bad times; Marvellous muscles; King kong; Kwela long; Back of the moon; Petal’s song; Damn him; Strange; Better than new; Mad; Quickly in love; In the queue; It’s a wedding; Death song

Joseph Rubushe, Hugh Masekela, Simon Chose (tp); Gwangwa Jonas (aka Jonas Gwangwa), Dougmore Slinga (tb); Mackay Devashe (ts, orchestration, arr, leader); Sylvester Phahlane (ts); Christopher Coka (bass s); Gwigwi Mrwebi (cl); Kiepie Moeketsi (aka Kippie Moeketsi) (as, orchestration, arr); Sol Klaaste (p, orchestration, arr); General Duze (g); Jacob Lepere (b); Ben Maoela (d); Stanley Glasser (musical d, orchestration, arr); Arnold Dover (choreography); Harry Bloom (book).

Jun 22, 2010

Spokes Mashiyane - King Kwela

barabara sounds sez:

Who knew you could make such joyful sounds on a pennywhistle? Nobody, until Spokes came along. He even developed a whole new way of playing the instrument. This is the classic sound that emanated from the townships in those vibrant early years of S.African jazz. Yeah, I like it a lot (though I'm not so keen on that dark, dour cover)!

slipcue.com sez:

Bouncy South African pennywhistle, or kwela, music from the leader of the Solven Whistlers, and frequent early collaborator with Miriam Makeba and the Skylarks. Mashiyane pretty much made the pennywhistle a popular sound, and few people could match him for the expressiveness he brought to such a seemingly limited instrument. For an all-instrumental album highlighting a fairly oddball sound, this disc is far more captivating than one might imagine. Recommended!

from the sleeve notes:

Born in Northern Transvaal, Spokes spent his days tending his father's cattle and, to while away the long hours, he tried his hand at the primitive African reed flute... [Later in Johannesburg] one of his first acquisitions was a genuine penny whistle – costing 4s.6d! ...The design of the South African penny whistle is the same as that throughout the world but, by placing the mouthpiece vertically against the side of his left cheek and by introducing an entirely new fingering system, he was able to produce a roundness of tone hitherto unknown with this limited musical instrument.

Some good background on Spokes and Kwela music here at the National Geographic...

And there a great post of Spokes' Sweet Sax, Sweet Flute up at electric jive...

Highly recommended!


Eectric Jive hs been digging! Check out the fantastic Spokes 78s just posted over here and here...

Jun 20, 2010

Township Swing Jazz - Vol.1

barabara sounds sez:
More of those infectious sounds from that golden age of township jazz. This one features plenty of musicians who went on to become some of the best known in/from the country. In case you don't know the background, the innocuous-sounding Father Huddlestone Band — set up by the anti-apartheid priest (and later archbishop) Trevor Huddlestone — was actually the crucible that Hugh Masekela and also Jonas Mosa Gwangwa emerged from. Legend has it Masekela started playing on a trumpet donated by Louis Armstrong (talk about passing on the torch!) — though others say the horn was scrounged from the Salvation Army. Whichever version you care to believe, jive in. And go the bafana bafana!

A stellar collection of South African pop music from the 1940s and '50s -- probably the best introduction to this style that you can find, and fairly easy to track down. American swing and pop vocal styles are gloriously transmuted into utterly delectable melodic forms -- the perfect thing to put on some day when you're down in the dumps and want to feel really, really warm and fuzzy. This disc features the best artists of the time, the recordings of many of whom are maddeningly impossible to find anywhere else. Especially cool are Miriam Makeba's original vocal ensemble, The Skylarks, and the beautiful pennywhistle music of groups such as the Solven Whistlers. This is a fun, fascinating album, and highly, highly recommended!

Track listing:
1. De Makeba - Mackay Davashe
2. Emaxambeni - Eric Nomvete
3. Pula Kgosi Seretse - Miriam Makeba
4. Daily Bread - Fred Mekoa
5. Daddy Wami - Ntemi Piliso
6. Tlhapi Ke Noga - Sam Maile
7. Ndenzeni Na? (What Have I Done?) - Father Huddleston Band
8. Darlie Kea Lemang - Mary Rabotapi
9. Lalelani - Miriam Makeba
10. Yiyo Le - Eric Nomvete
11. Malayisha - traditional
12. Makambati - Mackay Davashe
13. Good Time Boys - Kippie Moeketsi
14. Zulu Jazz - Christoph Songxaka
15. Ke Ya Kae le Bona - Dolly Rathebe
16. African Jive - Ntemi Piliso
17. Ndixolele - Miriam Makeba
18. Misfhane - Father Huddleston Band
19. Motsoala - Father Huddleston Band
20. Hamba 2 - Dugmore Slinger

Jun 13, 2010

the jazz epistles - jazz epistle verse 1

barabara sounds sez:
What a group, what a sound, what a classic! All the way from 1960 and it still has the power to get you up and moving! Dollar Brand (aka Abdullah Ibrahim), Hugh Masekela, Jonas Gwangwa, Johnny Gertze, Makaya Ntshoko and Kippie "Morolong" Moeketsi. Listen and rejoice!

There's a great review of this album and the musicians — with some fantastic photos too — at Hub Pages.

The Jazz Epistles, whose core consisted of Brand, Kippie Moeketsi, Jonas Gwangwa and Masekela, had made the first South African recording by black musicians, Jazz Epistle: Verse 1, in 1959; they won first place at the first Cold Castle Jazz Festival two years later. But when given the chance to support the cast of the popular King Kong musical (in which Makeba was the female lead), they jumped on board to tour England. Curiously, less than 500 copies of Jazz Epistle were originally pressed, despite the group's overwhelming popularity. Subsequent reissues have made up for that.

Jun 9, 2010

Jazz Offerings From South Africa

barabara sounds sez:
I know I'm not the only person on the planet with half a mind on South Africa right now. So, looking ahead to the global football shenanigans, here's a compilation of music from there — issued in 1999 but covering a five-decade span (earliest 1950, most recent 1998), ranging in quality from alright to excellent to out and out classics. A reviewer at amazon.com gushes over the Alan Cameron track (and AMG thought she mostly heard 'Latin' music — was she listening to the same album, I wonder?). Personally I prefer the township jazz, especially those pennywhistle virtuosos. If your taste also veers that way, then listen out for the tracks by Makgona Tsohle Band, Big Voice Jack and the great Spokes Mashiyane. Consider these a preview for a few upcoming posts I've got planned.

Stay tuned — and don't blast your ears out on those vuvuzelas!

AMG (Stacia Proefrock) sez:
An amazingly diverse collection of musicians from South Africa playing music with jazz influences that range from subtle to unmistakably strong. Latin and smooth jazz styles predominate, mixed with Afro-beat and South African folk elements. The strength of each individual artist here is not remarkable -- no single performer really stands out with a stunningly great piece of music -- but the album nevertheless manages to intrigue the listener with its melding of musical cultures.

a customer at amazon sez:
healing, soulful sentiments and feelings from the composer and performers of this title, at an historic juncture in South African history. Particularly moving are the near to audible tears of the violinist and saxophonist whose unique solo's express one of the most truthful and reflective tributes to the life and times of Nelson Mandela. So saying it seems to be a warm and emotive musical embrace of South Africa's beautiful people & new leaders, who continue to build a nation whilst transcending everyday adversity after a long uphill struggle for peace and freedom.

Jun 4, 2010

Blue Mitchell - Blue's Moods

barabara sounds sez:
Probably the first essential Blue Mitchell album, at least to these ears. Although I listen to his later work on Blue Note a whole lot more, this one (1960 on Riverside) is definitely worth pulling out from the dusty recesses of my closet from time to time — just get an earful of that rhythm section of Kelly, Jones and Brooks. Plus I love that cover, the way Blue's trumpet is just smoking!

There's a fine appreciation of this album over at thenightowl. Here's some of it:
As you listen to these tracks, it's readily apparent that this wasn't just a one-off thing. Kelly and Jones both get to stretch out a bit on the lightly swinging "Avars." One of the best cuts here is the superb rendition of Charlie Parker's "Scrapple From the Apple." This may be Blue's date, but the trio really stands out on this one.

Jun 1, 2010

Ornette Coleman Double Quartet- Free Jazz

barabara sounds sez:
One of those albums that have iconic status but few people have actually listened to much. Ornette from 1961 in full flight, with a double crew of kindred spirits on board, including Eric Dolphy, Don Cherry and Freddie Hubbard. Obviously this is not easy listening music. But nor is it 'diffficult'. It demands your attention — and rewards you for it. No hesitation here: it's a classic.

The title gets it right — as the album's easily the closest thing to free jazz that Ornette Coleman ever recorded — an album-length improvisation played by a "double quartet" that's overflowing with classic players! The style here is a fair bit like John Coltrane's Ascension album for Impulse — and like that one, the session features Ornette and his contemporaries really stretching out — blowing like never heard before on record, and working in a highly unstructured setting! Other players include Eric Dolphy on bass clarinet, Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, and Scott LaFaro on bass -- alongside regular group members Don Cherry on pocket trumpet, Charlie Haden on bass, and both Ed Blackwell and Billy Higgins on drums. One long track -- just titled "Free Jazz"!

Wiki sez:
The original release embodied a painting by Jackson Pollock on the front of the cover, and its title gave the name for the whole free jazz movement. It involves two separate quartets, one to each stereo channel; the rhythm sections play simultaneously, and though there is a succession of solos as is usual in jazz, they are peppered with freeform commentaries by the other horns that often turn into full-scale collective improvisation. The pre-composed material is a series of brief, dissonant fanfares for the horns which serve as interludes between solos. Not least among the album's achievements was that it was the first LP-length improvisation, nearly forty minutes in length, which was unheard of at the time.

Track listing
1. "Free Jazz" (37:10); 2. "First Take" (17:02)

Left channel: Ornette Coleman alto sax; Don Cherry pocket trumpet; Scott LaFaro bass; Billy Higgins drums
Right channel: Eric Dolphy bass clarinet; Freddie Hubbard trumpet; Charlie Haden bass; Ed Blackwell drums

And this is the Jackson Pollock painting that apparently inspired it all: