Johnny Dyani

Born Under the Heat

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For this session, recorded only six weeks after Afrika on Steeplechase, South African bassist Johnny Dyani continued the use of a six-or seven-member ensemble and inched closer to the sort of music Abdullah Ibrahim, one of his mentors, was creating at around the same time with his band Ekaya. The edgy roughness and avant-garde affinity shown in his earlier ensembles with John Tchicai and Dudu Pukwana have been replaced by a slightly smoother (though, certainly, still rambunctious) sound and more song-oriented pieces. The band's a strong one, however, the compositions are engaging and the soloing imaginative. A couple of the pieces, including "Song for the Workers," still have the aching, bitter quality of his best work. Dyani spends a good deal of time on piano ("Wish You Sunshine" is a solo piano feature), again evincing Ibrahim's influence but in the process sacrificing bass duties to Thomas Ostergren who, on electric bass, can't quite plumb the same depths as Dyani. There's little to dislike here and fans of bands like Ekaya will find much to savor, but those who remember his prior, more adventurous work with great fondness may be somewhat disappointed.

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