31 December 2009

Chris McGregor & The Castle Lager Big Band - Jazz The African Sound

Following up Riccardo's fine series of big band recordings, here's another one, going back to 1963 and South Africa. This is from a cd re-release in 1991 of the original lp released on Teal Records back then, though listening to it, it sounds as if it was sourced from the original vinyl. This came into my hands via several intermediaries, originating with Chris McGregor's son, if I remember correctly. Thanks to all and sundry. This is one that belongs up on the blogs. It was posted in the past, but this should in any case be an audio upgrade.

The basic facts:

Chris McGregor & The Castle Lager Big Band - Jazz - The African Sound (1991 Teal TELCD 2300)

1. Switch (Kippie Moeketsi)
2. Kippie (Dollar Brand)
3. Eclipse At Dawn (Dollar Brand)
4. Early Bird (Chris McGregor)
5. I Remember Billy (Kippie Moeketsi)
6. Now (Chris McGregor)

Dudu Pukwana (Lead alto), Barney Rachabane (2nd alto), Nick Moyake (tenor), Christopher Columbus Ngcukane(baritone) and Kippie Moeketsi (alto and clarinet)

Bob Tizzard (lead), Blyth Mbityana and Willie Nettie

Dennis Mpali (lead), Ebbie Creswell, Mongesi Feza and Noel Jones

Sammy Maritz

Early Mabusa

Chris McGregor

Recorded 16th and 17th September 1963 by Alan Boyle

Remastering Richard Austen, Downtown Studios

Castle Lager is, as one can see above, a South African brewery, and the promoter of an annual jazz festival, the Cold Castle Jazz Festival, at which the band played in 1963. The brewery also agreed to sponsor a 17-piece big band with musicians of McGregor's choice. But finding concert outlets were more difficult as the brewery was only prepared to sponsor concerts in the black townships, but not in the "white" venues which would have given much better exposure for the band, nationally as well as overeseas. But with the initiative and tenacity of Maxine McGregor, two concerts was organised in the Johannesburg Playhouse and were a resounding success, according to reviews in the papers. All of this is vividly recounted in Maxine's McGregor's biography, "Chris McGregor and the Brotherhood of Breath", published by Bamberger Books in 1995. Required reading for the whole story of the Blue Notes and the Brotherhood, up to the death of McGregor in 1990.

Here's a picture from the book:

Musically, the blend of styles was apparent - southstream as derived from mainstream, but yet different. As one reviewer put it; "While admitting the obvious influence of American jazz on its South African counterpart (it is impossible to discount the tremendous impact of Ellington alone), South African jazz has a character and expression of its own - gay, warm, exceedingly good-humoured, uninhibited and vital". And, "this is a big bustling, muscular blending of the old familiar swing with a flavour which anybody who has listened to African music in recent years will recognise as springing straight from the townships. At times this flavour is most subtly imparted, but it is always there".

So, with these few words, a happy new year to all ... and cheers!


kinabalu said...





Wallofsound said...

Thanks for sharing. I'm looking forward to listing to this early CMcG.

ubu said...

Amazing, thanks a lot for the upgrade!

Happy new year to all the good people sharing great music on inconstansol!

Shane said...

Thanks, I've been looking for this for years.

amnesia said...

Thank you very much for this important post. Happy New Year and thanks for all the great music.

mel said...

That's Barney RACHABANE on second alto.

Happy New Year!

SOTISE said...

thanks K, all the best for 2010..and cheers to you too!

BondiUrbano said...

Felicidades para el próximo año y gracias por compartir tu música!

kinabalu said...

The typo has been corrected. The small print on the back of cds is made for night owls, not for people like me.

For those who enjoyed this post, do check out this one:


and the blog in general. Some truly golden nuggets in there.

Jon Turney said...

That fills a gap! Many many thanks for this.

mew23 said...

Here is a cover scan of the 1991 LP edition (Teal TEL 2300) with liner notes by Chris McGregor:


kinabalu said...

Thanks for those beautiful scans. Much better than the ones I've had. I've put them on top of the main posts where they belong.

Unknown said...

thank you so much for this post. I didn't even know this one existed! the new year seems to be starting out well ...

unitstructure said...

Thanks and happpy new years.I would love to have heard a battle of the bands between this crew and the Sun Ra orchestra of the same era.

gilhodges said...

Wow! The burn of this I received from Chris's son Kei McGregor is treasured, but not of high quality. I'm thrilled to have a cleaner copy. Tusen takk!

kinabalu said...


it's the same one (as you can see from the main post). There was another posting of the Castle Lager BB on another blog some time ago which might be from a different source, but I can't find it anymore. Your version (the one posted here) sounds as if it's sourced from the original lp.

Peter said...

THis looks like an unsuspected goodie. Thank you very much Sol!

jeffstone said...

I was at the fantastic ! " kippie was alight " saturday night concert at the long-gone Playhouse - it was demolished to build the Traduna centre - and i still have my vinyl copy purchased at the gig. When the 'Blue Notes' did a season at the hillbrow niterie, some of the guys used to sleep over at my pad...and listen to the disc ! among others.

Kei McGregor said...

Great to see this is being appreciated!
After all these years , I still can't get over it!
I am Chris's son, did you have a radio program called "give the drummer some more"?

kinabalu said...

@Kei McGregor: Very nice to hear from you. We have posted a lot of Chris McGregor, Brotherhood of Breath, Blue Notes and recordings by individual members over the years and will continue to do so if we find more. Needless to say, I'm a huge fan of your father's music, and I managed to find a copy of your mother's book as well. The picture in the main post was taken from the book.

No, I'm not the host of "Give the Drummer Some", but I know him very well. I will notify him of your post and I'm sure he will write a few words here once he knows about your message.

Doug S. said...

@Kei McGregor
I am the host of the Give the Drummer Some radio show. (Kinabalu is a close compatriot and regular supplier of good cheer and great music for the show.) You and I had a brief correspondence back in 2006. I will make contact with the email address I have for you. Cheers!

Doug Schulkind

Unknown said...

Thanks Doug, and Kinabalu, here's my little website I put on the waves...
Kei Mc Gregor