The Drive – ‘Can You Feel It’ – London Jazz News

The reader – can you feel it
(We Are Busy Bodies WABB-076. LP review by Adam Sieff)

In 1971, three members of the group Heshoo Beshoo – alto saxophonist Henry Sitholehis brother, tenor and baritone saxophonist Stanley Sidhole and drummer Nelson Magwaza – were approached by the guitarist Adolphe ‘Rabbit’ Luthuli to form a new band to compete in the Alco Best Band competition taking place at the Jabulani Stadium in Soweto. They named themselves The reader and duly won first prize, then won another competition the following September at the Pina-Culo Festival at the Umgababa Holiday Resort.

The Drive became South Africa‘s most popular touring band and eventually made their recording debut in 1974 for Atlas City Records, then recorded six more albums for RCA before tragedy struck in 1977 when Henry Sithole and Bunny Luthuli were killed in a car accident.

can you feel it is the second album by The Drive and was recorded in 1975 at RCA’s Manley van Niekerk Studios in Johannesburg by saxophonist/producer David Thekwane. By then two of the band’s founding members, vocalist Lucky Mbatha and saxophonist Mike Makhalemele had left and the rest of the lineup was Henry and Stanley’s brother, Danny Sithole on trumpet, Fender’s bassist. Tony Sauli and a twenty year old Bheki Mseleku on synthesizer, electric piano and Hammond organ.

There may only be three songs, but they are as joyful and moving as each other. The main objective is Back to the fifties which takes up the first side of the disc, a track still very revered today which had been a radio hit spread over the A and B sides of a 7” single. It’s a gorgeous slice of South African jazz, with its relentless groove, wide-open brass parts and fiery solo from the Sithole brothers and Mseleku. When it fades after 13 minutes, one can only hope it was because they ran out of tape, it would have been criminal to stop such an uplifting performance. The remaining two tracks make a virtue of their comparative brevity, Together’s tight ensemble playing is just that, while the funky guitar and piano title track leaves more room to stretch on its rhythm section. tight but relaxed from Sauli and Magwaza.

Why this music sounds so good 46 years later shows how special it was in the first place and how sad it is that it was not made available to an international audience. If the car accident hadn’t happened, who knows? It certainly deserves to be better known, and I hope this release further stimulates interest in The Drive with more comprehensive releases to come.

LINK: can you feel it on Bandcamp

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