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
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!