Various Artists

Next Stop Soweto, Vol. 3: Giants, Ministers and Makers - Jazz in South Aftrica 1963-1984

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In closing out the Next Stop... Soweto series, Strut examines the jazz scene from South Africa. Elements of bebop and cool jazz lead the way on Mankunku Quartet's "Dedication (To Daddy Trane and Brother Shorter)," whose loose arrangements and tight playing are a highlight of the set. Midway through the jam session, Agrippa Magwaza on bass) and Lionel Pillay (on piano) really take over for some beautiful back-and-forth work. Magwaza plucks rhythmically to keep tempo while Pillay covers a wide range of notes on the right half of his keyboard. The Malombo Jazz Makers similarly have great chemistry in the breezy "Sibathathu" on guitar and drums. Notably missing is a snare, as nearly all of the drum work is on the toms. It creates a joyous mood with Lucky Ranku's guitar strumming, which is playful and celebratory. While the song itself is short at not even three-minutes long, the mood it creates eclipses that mark immensely. Clocking in at nearly 16 minutes is Batsumi's opus "Itumeleng." Largely hypnotic, the track jumps into a more frantic ending, with nearly 20 seconds of its final minute going into a spastic splurge before mellowing and fading.

The liner notes are filled with an excellent recap of what it was like for these musicians during such an oppressive time in the country's changing political environment. Scattered throughout the booklet are also album covers and studio session photographs, including a fantastic black-and-white of saxophonist Mankunku Ngozi puffing a cigarette left-handed while holding his instrument in his right. Many of the songs are indeed long jam sessions, as was usual for the fruitful '60s and '70s, hence the reason the music here is spread over two discs. The collection, though long, never overstays its welcome. The music itself fits in nicely with much of the jazz idiom prevalent at the time, regardless of region. For the most part, Next Stop is jazz being played by South Africans more than it is South African musicians trying to create a distinct, regional sound, which is only a compliment to the musicians featured on this set, as they prove they were giants in their field. While this disc will be most accessible to music listening audiences for its sonic familiarity, it may also be the best collection in the set.

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