OGUN ‘Blue Notes reissue series 2022’ – London Jazz News

OGUN’ Blue Notes reissue series 2022

  • Legacy – Living in South Africa 1964. OGCD024
  • Blue notes for Mongezi. OGCD025/026
  • Blue notes in concert. OGCD027
  • Blue notes for Johnny. OGCD028

Album reviews by Jon Turney

Here is a treasure. And a timely opportunity to revisit the story – important, fascinating and ineffably sad – of British jazz’s invigorating encounter with South Africa half a century ago. Let’s take these wonderful CDs in chronological order – the release schedule

is a bit different – to give it a bit clearer insight. Blue Notes Legacy – Live in South Africa 1964 captures the definitive line-up of a remarkably talented sextet: Nick Moyake tenor saxophone, alto player Dudu Pukwana, drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo and pianist Chris McGregor – the only white player – were all in their twenties. Surprisingly, the bassist Johnny Dyani and trumpeter Mongezi Feza

were just 19 when they played that college fixture in Durban. It reveals a tight-knit and inventive band – recently reinvigorated by the arrival of Moholo – playing exciting music firmly rooted in hard bop. The new compositions (four by Pukwana, two by McGregor) are in the same style – bluesy riffs that kick off a round of solos as the rhythm section keeps the beat. The audience is noisily enthusiastic and the excitement builds until the last 14 minutes ofDorkay House

named after one of the few meeting places for black musicians in Johannesburg.

The existence of a multiracial group, let alone actual public performance, was a challenge to the appalling regulatory apparatus of apartheid. The six were already preparing to accept an invitation from the Antibes Jazz Festival that year and leave the country – for who knew how long?

They duly left, making a date in France, performing in Switzerland and flying to London in the spring of 1965 for an engagement with Ronnie Scott, after which all but Moyake, who died in 1966, remained in the UK.

========== Cheek Blue notes for Mongeziand you skip a decade. Years in which the Blue Notes struggled with a London scene which, on the whole, preferred visitors to bring exciting new music and then move on. They performed less and less together and hardly recorded any more ( Very urgent

of “The Chris McGregor Group” in 1968 was actually a Blue Notes recording). Johnny Dyani moved to Copenhagen in the early 1970s. Mongezi Feza’s health declined and he died in exile in London in December 1975. For Mongezi

is the record of the remaining four members scoring this occasion. They gathered in a rehearsal room after Feza's memorial service and just played. The results appeared as a double LP the following year. This double CD reissues the full session, originally released by Ogun in 2008.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpVd8MUX1Kg nothing on Legacy will really prepare you forBlue notes for Mongezi .

There are no named pieces. The four dive in head first, piano, bass and drums playing freely. Then the volcanic and lively alto saxophone comes over, speaking in tongues, seeking catharsis. It’s a far cry from the routines of hard bop, music where the saxophone is reminiscent of Albert Ayler and Ornette Coleman – although players attest that the resemblance stems from arriving at similar conclusions from a different starting point, and not from a direct influence. There are other elements too, especially the vocal incantation later in the set, and a way of blending that somehow has more life than the hard bop unison. The tireless South African jazz columnist Gwen Ansell suggests that these stem from Xhosa music, and that “what is still the sound of family ceremonies, even in cities, has fostered ways of hearing the music – not as a straight line, but rather as a collection”. of braided paths.

Even in lulls, it’s intense music. All four are also keen on free play, with McGregor now exploring the connections between Ellington and Cecil Taylor. But there are solid anchors, from Dyani’s majestic bass – his simultaneous mastery of free bursts and deep groove a match for William Parker – and Moholo-Moholo, then as compelling in spare time as when posing. a boost. When they interlock, they generate a forward motion that could demolish a blockhouse without losing momentum.

The set gains momentum in the extended version, allowing everything to unfold at its own pace without haste. It is both a celebration and a lamentation, resounding with cries of pain and cries of resistance. Impossible to hear it without thinking about the political horrors the band left behind, or marveling at its ability to sound elated despite it all.

There’s a passage that begins about ten minutes after the third movement when the drums die down to let Dyani and Pukwana exchange the simplest phrases, with a little thud of the piano, each repetition revealing darker sorrows. Time seems suspended. There’s an almost Beckettian quality to it – “I can’t go on; I will continue” – prolonged for minutes. Then the cymbal picks up the beat and the four slowly reappear in the sunlight.

It’s one of many spooky moments in an utterly remarkable set. The music of the Blue Notes will be, must be, forever associated with the politics of liberation. But it also transcends politics, conveying other timeless truths. In this case: the more you have to celebrate someone’s death, the more you have lost too. On this day in December 1975, they gave us a recording that speaks with rare eloquence of music as an unavoidable human necessity. This quality was one they could apparently replicate at will.In concert

, recorded at a rare London gig at the 100 Club in 1977 certainly does. It’s another incandescent collective display, with the band tearing up ten named tunes. Again, hard bop habits are mostly outdated: the final half hour sees them tapping more directly into South African music with four traditional anthems arranged by the band.

======== And so until 1987, and Blue notes for Johnny,

the remaining trio’s tribute to Dyani, who died in 1986 after gaining worldwide fame before turning forty. Impossible not to miss his colossal sound and irreplaceable spirit, but the three surviving members still form a formidable ensemble. McGregor, pounding the keyboard, tries mightily to fill in some of the low end where the bass would have been, and Pukwana, in particular, seems capable of endlessly enriching his sound. The passionate music hour here has some of its best games on disc. It was a more planned affair than the Mongezi tribute, and there are alternate takes on the CD of some of the best tunes from the Blue Notes repertoire.

All of this is, of course, poignant – especially since we now know that McGregor and Pukwana also died a few years later, with Louis Moholo-Moholo gone to carry the flame the Blue Notes lit and to assist at the end of apartheid. This flame is still spreading. The group’s influence is incalculable. This is almost all we now have of their music – McGregor’s later work with the brotherhood of breath

and Dyani’s bands who recorded for Steeplechase in Copenhagen are better documented. Their immediate influence was felt most strongly among a select group of their more adventurous British contemporaries – like John Surman, Keith Tippett, Evan Parker and John Stevens – but many later players picked up on those South African vibes. Even if you’ve never heard the Blue Notes, chances are your favorite UK players from the Loose Tubes generation have loved them.

All the more reason to revisit these recordings thanks to a new flowering of South African jazz. A few weeks before these CDs arrived, news came that Blue Note records is launching an African imprint. This acknowledges the strength of jazz across the continent – and particularly in post-apartheid South Africa, with the first release from the charismatic pianist recently signed to the famed label.Nduduzo Makhathini . Meanwhile, the trumpeterMarcus Wyatt

who created the Blue Notes Tribute Orchestra to present his compositions to a new generation of South African musicians ten years ago, has an appointment this year at the BBC Proms.

All of this makes it a great time for Ogun Records to make these priceless recordings available again. If you’ve lived with the British Sessions, in one form or another, for decades, like me, it’s an immeasurable satisfaction to see them back on CD. If you feel this band’s lasting influence on current music and want to delve deeper, this is the best place to start. If you just want to hear some of the most vibrant music created in this country in the past 50 years, then dig in. * Blue Notes in Concert and Legacy were released in April; Blue notes for Mongezi and Blue Notes for Johnny

June 10. Jon Turney writes about jazz and other things from Bristol.

Twitter @jonwturny

LINKS: ogunrecording.co.uk

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