1 November 2008

Dudu Pukwana Diamond Express [aka Ubagile] 1975

Dudu Pukwana Diamond Express 1975 Freedom FLP 41041

also released as Ubagile (Jazz Colours 874744-2)

Dudu Pukwana (Alto Saxophone)
Elton Dean (Saxello track 5)
Nick Evans (Trombone track 5)
Mongezi Feza (Trumpet)
Lucky Ranku (Guitar)
Frank Roberts (Keyboards tracks 1 to 4)
Keith Tippett (Piano track 5)
Ernest Mothole (Bass tracks 1 to 4) ,
Victor Ntoni (Bass track 5)
James Meine (Drums tracks 1 to 4) ,
Louis Moholo (Drums tracks 5)

1. Diamond Express
2. Bird Lives
3. Ubagile (See Saw)
4. Madodana (The Young Ones)
5. Tete And Barbs In My Mind

Recorded in two sessions during Autumn 1975, London

If you are not familiar with Dudu Pukwana, something of his background should indicate his importance in British jazz. He was one of the musicians who came together in the early 1960s South Africa in the multi-ethnic Blue Notes. You can imagine what the official response to such a group would be under the Apartheid regime of that time. The musicians relocated to Europe, and made their base in London. The Blue Notes fused multiple South African forms with African American jazz, and in Europe they engaged with the London, and wider European free movements. Pukwana's music tended to emphasise the rhythmic patterns of both South African popular music, and African American funk with a acerbic emotionally charged alto playing style. His classic In the Townships is one of my all-time favourite records.

If you are familiar with Dudu Pukwana, but not with this recording a real treat lays in wait for you. For me, it is one of the most interesting record in the Pukwana discography. The first four tracks are by a group of Pukwana's SA collaborators. They feature great rumbling rhythm section the drives the music. 'Madodana' is my favourite, featuring a percussion bridge built around the drummer's 's standard kit [I'm not sure if it's Louis Moholo or James Meine; the CD lists both, but discographies only Meine even though there seems to be more than one percussionist], and all the band on assorted clatter and shake. Frank Roberts' Fender Rhodes gives it a funky feel, and Pukwana and Feza are great if a little in the sidelines. 'Ubagile' is typical of Pukwana's township jive, although his playing is a little more laid back, and Roberts' keyboards are mixed up higher than the alto. Sometimes Pukwana sounds like he's fighting to be heard. 'Tete and Barbs in my Mind' is completely different. This is obviously due to the addition of Elton Dean on saxello and particularly Keith Tippett on piano. Pukwana is now far more strident, and higher in the mix, and matches Tippett's discordant but very grand playing and the bands unison rich SA melodies. Mongezi died soon after this recording; a great loss to a great community of jazz players.

I'm not sure how this came to be originally issued on Arista's Freedom label, but copies of the original LP are quite hard to find. It was rereleased on by the German DA music label Jazz Colours as Ubagile. Now seemingly OOP, I thought a few more people should hear this great music.

You can find a developing discography of Pukwana's music at my blog wallofsound


Wallofsound said...
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Anonymous said...

Well done, WoS! I had heard this album many years ago, but never managed to bag a copy of it. So thank you!

sotise said...

a wonderful album, thanks so much!

DonNewcomb said...

Ah, thank you! Almost every one of those Arista releases show up in record bins except this one (When I lived in the midwest, I would see all the Braxton Aristas in dollar bins!). I actually had trouble convincing a friend that this even existed.

Wallofsound said...


As far as I am aware Pukwana was the only non-North American to appear on the label. The previous recording had been produced by British independent Virgin (but on its Caroline label), but it gave Pukwana some profile in the business. However, given that the altoist was not that well known in the UK, I'm guessing the print run for the original was very small. Freedom versions of the record can sell for $100, but it is possible to find the German re-release for under $5.

Boromir said...

Great recording WOS.Many thanks.

Anonymous said...

Dudu is (was?) one of the greats. We were lucky in England that he arrived (not so lucky for him, of course).

c said...

much appreciated!

cianix said...

I'm listening to it! It's really good :-D

Anonymous said...

Anon: Pukwana died in 1990, too young. Most of the members of the Blue Notes also died similarly young, as if some sort of planetary curse hung over the band. (Or was it just England?!). Thank the gods, Louis Moholo Moholo is still with us.

King Kennytone said...

testing... ahem

Greetings jazz-lovers.

Some of you may be interested to know that the actual running order of the original Freedom LP is as followeth:

side 1:
Diamond Express

side 2
Tete And Barbs In My Mind
Bird Lives

*yep, it's spelled with a Q on that first pressing... dunno where that G came from on the re-issues*( X|`1\
still its all phonetic innit
Hello jazz fans

so there you go .. blah

ghostrancedance said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I've been looking for this brilliant album for a long, long time.

Calisan said...

Hi KING KENNYTONE: Is there any chance that you up the original artwork from "Freedom" label?
hi resolution for reading
and thanks for the info!

fritz the cat said...

thanks. looking forward to this one.

hiller said...

thank you so much for this rare gem!! pukwana is amazing!

Anonymous said...

thank you!

miloo2 said...

Thanks to makers of this blog for many many treasures and here is my first little contribution - requested Freedom cover of Diamond Express album, scanned from my Japanese cd booklet (which is, I believe, reprint of original LP cover):


Anyway, WoF, you are right: Moholo is present throughout whole album, which I like probably most of Dudu's.

Anonymous said...

Dollar Brand's Anatomy of an African Village also saw release on the Freedom label,but somehow in collaboration with sub labels.My copy is a Freedom/Spiegelei release. Koos