May 7, 2010


(Chris McGregor in 1971 - helped bring Township Jazz to the ears of the world)

Last Sunday I posted a program from Radio South Africa in the early 1960's where the emphasis was on Township Jazz and Jive during the Apartheid period. The Jazz scene in South Africa had been going on for a while and thanks to musicians like Hugh Masakela and Abdulah Ibrahmim (formerly known as Dollar Brand) it's presence was felt throughout the rest of the world in the early-mid 1960s. But those were a few examples, and they were largely regarded as "Exile Musicians", the ones who left South Africa and settled in England, France or Switzerland where they were free of the stigma of apartheid and the restrictions placed on Black musicians then. But musicians like Chris McGregor whose band The Brotherhood Of Breath did lot to break through those restrictions, even though they were forced to play at underground clubs and record outside South Africa because McGregor was White and his band was mostly Black.

In 1970 the progressive label Neon (via RCA) issued the first Chris McGregor's Brotherhood Of Breath album, first in the UK and then in the States shortly after. For me it was a revelation and tonight's track, MRA is the opening cut on that album. McGregor's band featured some of the cream of South African Jazz musicians, including the legendary alto-sax player Dudu Pukwana and drummer Louis Moholo. Augmented by some of the great UK Jazz musicians at the time (the album was cut in London for obvious reasons), this was the first time I had heard what was going on South Africa and I became a fan ever since.

Both McGregor and Pukwana sadly passed away in 1990, but their legacies still live on and this first album truly got the ball rolling for a lot of fans - me included.

I wore out my original lp of this album years ago, so I was completely knocked out to see it reissued on CD in Italy via the Akarma label. I'm not sure it's still in print, but it should be. McGregor left a rich legacy of great recordings, including a live album that's been issued just recently. I would urge you check him out and hear what you've been missing from this legendary pianist, arranger and composer.

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