Hugh Masekela

Uptownship

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The title of this New York City-recorded album suggests a combination of township jive and uptown Gotham soul and energy, but what we get is some of the former and little of the latter. Here, Masekela alternates South African-inflected pop/jazz with lugubrious covers of a couple of U.S. soul tunes (Gamble & Huff's "If You Don't Know Me by Now" and Smokey Robinson's "Ooh Baby Baby") and a Bob Marley anthem, "No Woman, No Cry." While the covers are instantly disposable, even the South African-rooted tracks suffer from a lack of energy, not helped by the dull recorded sound. "Now or Never" is a leisurely stroll through the township; "Hold On" has a stuttering jive feeling to it where Masekela plays well but has little new to say. Altoist Morris Goldberg's contributions range from dreary jazz-lite clich├ęs to some passages where he can spar effectively with Masekela, and the cast of the Broadway show Sarafina! provides some of the backing vocals.

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