McCoy Mrubata  - Best Of The Early Years


When we study the history of South African Jazz one name will be certainly mentioned: McCoy Mrubata. McCoy Mrubata is one of South Africa's finest saxophonists, versatile on the tenor, soprano and alto saxophones as well as the flute, and has gained recognition internationally as well. Exposed as a young lion McCoy Mrubata's first album which is mentioned at All Music Guide is called "Jive Jazz Collection, Vol. 2: Firebird" and was already released in 1989, three years after his arrival in Johannesburg. It took eight further years that he could release his albums "Tears of Joy" (1997), "Phosa Ngasemva" (1999) and "Indibano" (1999). This compilation album is a best of these albums. The title "Best Of The Early Years" sounds like McCoy is a veteran of jazz music, but he is just 45 years old. So await no dust but freshness in sound.

The album starts with a track from his album "Tears of Joy".  What I especially like is the fact that his music isn't dominated by one instrument like most albums of an instrumentalist but a collaboration of many great musicians. Sure McCoy plays solos. But his albums are melodious and all musicians are presenting their own part.  

Take for example The Groove. A nice bass line is introducing into the tune accompanied by percussion and drums. After a short presentation of McCoy's sax a great brass section is bridging between the sax solo line. Johnny Fourie on guitar, Prince Lengosa on trumpet and others get a place for soloing. That's only in a piece with a playtime of 7:12 minutes. This is life-atmosphere pressed into groove.

Abukho from his album Phosa Ngasemva is presenting the singer Ringo Malingozi. Ringo is a Pop singer, a Township Pop singer. Nevertheless this song is unusual and not representative for his own music. The song has a social message and is still entertaining. He remembers at "ubuntu" (humanness). Read more about this theme here

Firebird is a mixture of South African Jive Jazz and Jazz Fusion elements. McCoy Mrubata combines and opposed both structures. A further prove for his virtuosity.

Tears of Joy is featuring Paul Hanmer on piano, Andre Abrahamse on bass and Beheki Khoza on guitar besides a big brass section. The melody is simple, the presentation excellent.

Very dynamic is Fula, the second excerpt from his album Phosa Ngasemva. Especially the fretless bass attracts attention. Breathtaking Paul Hanmer's piano runnings and  McCoy Mrubata's sax blow.

Samba in Africa? Yes, Cape Samba (Tears of Joy). All artists are performing this Brazilian motive in masterful lightness. Jazz with easy access.

Mabarane of his album Indibano showcases that McCoy Mrubata and his band is still playing in the tradition of Jazz Jive, the traditional Afro sounds. Certainly one of the reasons for his great popularity besides his creativity and musical presence when he blows the audience away. 

Smooth and slow characterizes the temper of Blow To The Head (Firebird). Perhaps an example of smooth jazz made in South Africa. 

Yes, the band can swing. Listen to The Poet 1. This is primarily the Straight Ahead side of McCoy Mrubata's group. A further prove for their versatility.

Phosa Ngasemva is the expression of South African big band sound. A big horn section with strong African elements.

Akulalwa (There's No Sleeping) from the album Firebird is very accessible and contemporary. Surprising fresh for a 15 years old music.

Qula (Tears of Joy) is rhythm. Starting as a percussion oriented groove the tune quickly turns into jazz jive area. Anew Andre Abrahamse's fretless bass makes this tune to a musical banquet.

Vukani (Wake Up!) is a journey into jazz fusion and cjazz. 

Hopefully McCoy Mrubata gets more attention in the American music market with pieces like these. By the way the album Firebird was originally released by BMG/Jive and has previously been unavailable in South Africa.





Further information




  • For further information on the artists and albums contact:
    Leemor Daniel
    International Division - Sheer Sound

    Tel: +27 11 444 1818
    Fax: +27 11 444 2275