Various Artists - Tales Of Afrojazz S.A.


The richness of South African Jazz is endless. Thanks to Sheer Sound we have the opportunity to listen to a representative survey of this interesting genre. The label catches the spirit and soul of this wonderful music and for those who aren't familiar with the interprets: it's the best starter. For advanced listeners it may be a hint to up to now unknown artists.

The album starts with Jimmy Dludlu's Linda taken from the album "Echoes From The Past" (1997). First of all Jimmy is a great guitarist. You can compare him with George Benson, Wes Montgomery or Chuck Loeb. "Echoes from the past" was an expression of his life-experiences. Besides this historical view this track is deeply impressing. His music has crossed already all boundaries and he absolutely deserves the received two FNB Awards for "Best Newcomer" and "Best Contemporary Jazz Album."

Steve Dyer is a master of saxophone and flute. Best known for his band "Southern Freeway" in Zimbabwe in the early 1990s, he fuses contemporary jazz with African elements like percussion and vocals. The track Qinisa Indlu was taken from his debut album "Son Of The Soil". Steve is not only a professional musician but also an experienced producer and musical director.

Hugh Masekela is an international star who doesn't need any introduction. Although acknowledged as one of the best jazz players he found his popularity in Pop, R&B, Disco, Afro pop and many other genres. The song "Grazing In The Grass" was a multi-selling hit and his touring with Paul Simon on his Graceland tour accelerated his popularity worldwide. The song You Keep Me Hangin' On also known by interprets like The Supremes, Kim Wilde, Vanilla Fudge is extremely well performed by this outstanding artist. This song was originally recorded in 1970 for the album "Reconstruction". Further artists are among others Larry Willis (piano), Joe Sample (electric-piano), Arthur Adams (guitar), Wilton Felder, Monk Montgomery (bass), Al Foster and Wayne Henderson (drums).

Mike Makhalemele's Emakhaya is the perfect township jive, the South African groove, which let us swing. He was one of South Africa's leading saxophonist and worked with Champion Jack Dupree, Joe Henderson, Chick Corea, Curtis Mayfield, and Clarence Carter. He also toured with Paul Simon (He played uncredited on his Graceland album) and Miriam Makeba. He passed away in May 2000. The song Emakhaya was recorded on his album "Searching" (1999).

The traditional South African vocal style is presented by the group Sankomota and its lead singer and bass guitarist Frank Leepa, who passed away in 2003. The great accident of the group was in 1996, when four members of the internationally-acclaimed Lesotho band Sankomota were killed in a road accident.  Now Or Never is taken from the "Best of" album. The song is filled with positive energy.

McCoy Mrubata is a special cjazz sax player. On this album he performs the "Marabi" style with the track Face The Music. The story of Marabi can be read here. McCoy Mrubata caught this musical trend and lifestyle in this dynamic piece.

Gloria Bosman's heritage is the gospel music. She has sung with many famous South African musicians, amongst them Sibongile Khumalo, Moses Molelekwa, Sipho Mabuse, Vusi Mahlasela, James Philips, Victor Masondo, Hugh Masekela and Jonas Gwangwa. The song Amaqwati was produced for her album "Tranquility" (1999). The power of her voice has found a strong feed back. Although not all critics loved her interpretations in English language.

The South African flavor turns on with Botsotsi from Prince Kupi's album Loxion (2002), which was produced by Andy Narell. The song is especially recommend to fans of percussion music. Concerning the title "Bo-Tsotsi" I suggest to read C. Glaser's book about the Youth Gangs of Soweto. It's also a traditional folk tune that was popular in the townships when Prince Kupi was growing up. You will love Prince Kupi's guitar skills.

Shamwari, the title song form Louis Mhlanga's album (2001) means "friends". We are all friends. Louis Mhlanga understands his music as a message. The message of peace. The harmony of his rapid but complex song structure is his signal.

Township Jive Sipho Gumede's title says it all. Great South African brass and bass. Township Jive is music which originated from the townships around Johannesburg, South Africa. A fusion of dance music, Pop and local music streams, since Paul Simon's "Graceland" the world knows this style. Sipho Gumede is the icon of South African Jazz Pop, a blend of Pop and Jazz music.

As a champion of the Penny-whistle style we can listen to "Big Voice" Jack Lerole. His device was: "The music is in my veins. I don't have to say anything. I am music." Jack played the penny-whistle, an inexpensive fipple flute, like no other. In the 60's he was one of the kings of penny whistle jive, or kwela. This music was influenced by marabi, a mixture of South African rural and Western big-band jazz and swing music. The distinctive vocal ultra-bass sound he developed ("deep rasping groaning") made him to a hero of vocalists. A throat cancer killed him in 2003. The song Across Africa is from his album "Zimanukwenzeka" ("Things Just Happen") (2003).

Errol Dyes' Sonesta presents a special guitar sound called "Cape Jazz Flavour". "More than anything, it is Cape Town that has influenced my sound", comments Errol frankly. It's the special vibe of this area Errol inhales and breathes out again. The track is taken from his album "Kou Kou Wa" (2000).

Winston Mankunku Ngozi is a living jazz legend in South Africa. The song Give Peace a Chance (Een Liedtjie vir Saldanha Bay) is published on his album "Abantwana Be Afrika" ("Children of Africa"), 2003. Most critics describe this album as a return to Winston's musical roots, Bop, Hard Bop and Classic Jazz. Winston is famous for his creativity and intensity of performance. 

Zim Ngqawana's music is uncommon and novel. Jazz Avantgarde or New School is a possible term to characterize his freedom of expression and onomatopoeia. Qula Kwedini is taken from his album "Zimology", recorded in Oslo (Norway) 1998. 

Paul Hanmer has a great affinity to solo piano play. You often find some pieces of this kind on his albums. Paul Hanmer's performance has a deepness and loftiness that immediately enchants the audience. After Cecil And Alarice Marry from his album "Windows To Elsewhere" (1996) is no jazz at all. It's a melody which Paul develops and lets grow like a flower carefully fostered. "I belong to South African music, but not necessarily jazz", he explains. But Paul continues: "If you mean jazz in the general sense of the term, then yes. If jazz incorporates folk music, the country's indigenous culture, then yes. If jazz incorporates the use of European, American, and African harmonic forms, then yes. If it incorporates improvisation, yes, definitely, I play jazz".

This album is as many-layered as the country from where its music is coming from. Certainly its only a small glimpse of the many variations of jazz one can find in South Africa, but really a fantastic one.


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