Dudu Pukwana

Diamond Express

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    8
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AllMusic Review by

A follow-up to his extraordinary recording for Caroline, In the Townships, Diamond Express doesn't quite reach those heights but provides measures of enjoyment on its own. Four of the five cuts feature, in addition to Pukwana, two of the musicians from the prior date, drummer Louis Moholo and the glorious trumpeter Mongezi Feza, who was to die prematurely shortly after this session. The remainder of the band on these pieces, however, is filled out by several musicians who operated more from the electric funk end of the spectrum than the acoustic-oriented township music which was Pukwana's roots. They do a fine job pushing the band along, but one can't help but desire an earthier, more natural-sounding rhythm section; the electric piano, for instance, sounds a bit out of place. Even so, the title cut has such a killer riff that it hardly matters; the melody carries the band effortlessly, making even the tinny electric piano sound OK. On other tracks, like "Madodana," the clunkier aspects of the rhythm team drag things more than one would like to hear. "Tete and Barbs in My Mind" adds three stalwarts of the British improvising scene: Elton Dean on saxello, Nick Evans on trombone, and pianist Keith Tippett. This makes for the most adventurous outing of the set, one that combines spirited free playing with a lovely, dirge-like theme and is representative of the sort of music played at the time when the South African expatriates and British avant-jazzers joined forces. The closer, as befits its title, is a boppish affair, the formerly funky rhythm team settling with surprising ease into a hardcore jazz groove, giving Pukwana a chance to strut his Bird-roots on alto. Diamond Express may be something of a mixed bag and may never quite reach the ecstatic extremes of In the Townships, but overall it's a fine date and a good chance to hear what this late, great musician was capable of.

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