The Blue Notes

Legacy: Live in South Africa 1964

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This historic recording is a testament, one of the final homeland performances of the Blue Notes, the legendary group from apartheid-riddled South Africa whose members expatriated to Europe shortly after this summer 1964 concert in Durbin. As documented in Maxine McGregor's biography Chris McGregor & the Brotherhood of Breath (Bamberger Books), the full-blown Blue Notes sextet was the preeminent modern jazz band from Pretoria, who would revolutionize the Continental jazz scene with their mix of hard bop, highlife, Xhosa bush tribal, and kwela musics into one of the more joyful sounds the world has ever known. The Blue Notes of 1964 were an aggressive hard bop unit, with drummer Louis Moholo's punchy Elvin Jones-like drumming and the contrasting sounds of pocket trumpeter Mongezi Feza, alto saxophonist Dudu Pukwana, and tenor saxophonist Nick Moyake churning and burning brightly on the horizon of their future conquests. The recording is produced thin, not to field recording status, but the piano playing of Chris McGregor is quite buried in the mix. The pace is quickly established on "Now," a cool bluesy swing number featuring the sultry tenor of Moyake and occasional brief double-time rhythm step-ups from Moholo. "Coming Home" is quite similar to a Lee Morgan-Wayne Shorter tandem sonically, and melodically close to Clifford Brown's "Joyspring," while the easy-swinging "Vortex Special" is a cousin of the Miles Davis evergreen "So What." At their most raw and raucous, "Two for Sandi" is an unabashed hard bopper and "Dorkay House" (credited to Pukwana but actually composed by Kippie Moeketsi) is even more unbridled, free, and loose, informed by the pungent, pronounced alto of the fearless Pukwana. Feza is a delight to listen to as a logical extension of Don Cherry, while bassist Johnny Dyani supports his bandmates with a witty repartee this side of Charlie Haden. The Blue Notes would head for the Antibes Jazz Festival, then to Paris and London prior to the death of Feza and the departure of Moyake. Then McGregor would form his multinational Brotherhood of Breath big band. After that, the music universe would never be the same, and the Blue Notes paved the way as a prelude to a revolution of Afro-jazz that still very much lives.

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