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The African Jazz Pioneers
 Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival, Intuition CD INT 3099 2, 1996 (50:43)

 Rollicking live township jazz

Township jazz has a spirited and happy feel to it that rises above the political strife upon which it originated. This fine mix of mainstream jazz with traditional African music originated in the fifties in Sophiatown, South Africa. Recently it has found a resurgence thanks in part to the success of Abdullah Ibrahim (previously known as Dollar Brand), Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masakela, and Ntemi Piliso. A veteran saxophonist, composer, and arranger, Piliso leads the African Jazz Pioneers on this live recording from the 1991 Montreux Jazz Festival.

All of the compositions are especially rollicking and these eleven musicians prove they really know how to swing. Piliso demonstrates great leadership beginning with Masakela's "Dark City" to open the set. The tenor saxophonist is just slightly ahead of the other saxophonists with the trumpets comping from behind. All the while, the rhythm section provides a steady and pulsating foundation.

In Township jazz, or mbaquanga, there is a soothing quality similar to what I hear in reggae music. What reggae does with guitars, Township jazz is able to do with horns. It is this steady driving rhythm that makes the music so approachable. I find the trumpets especially appealing due to how uniquely they plunge in and out of the music. Each of the musicians is given ample opportunity to solo throughout the recording, and are applauded by the appreciative and lucky audience. Vocalist Giant Molokomme is limited to singing on Piliso's composition "Amagama Aphelile (Amaqhawe)" and on "Baby Ntsoare." The first song is especially upbeat and spirited.

The 1991 Montreux Jazz Festival will probably best be remembered for the appearance of Miles Davis with Quincy Jones as part of the 25th anniversary celebrations. But this CD proves the African Jazz Pioneers provided something memorable with their performance as well. -  Mark Craemer

production notes & song titles

Stompie Manana, 1st trumpet; Sam Tshabanga, 2nd trumpet; Jasper Cook, trombone and bass trombone; Jennifer Klut, 1st alto sax; Shep Ntsamai, 2nd alto sax; Ntemi Piliso, tenor sax; Albert 'Nkaka' Khumalo, guitar; Madoda Gxubeka, piano; Cambridge Tau, bass; Mpho Mathabe, drums; Giant Molokomme, vocals.

Produced by Ntemi Piliso. Recorded live by Le Mobile in Montreux, Switzerland in 1991.

Dark City | Woodpecker | Amagama Aphelile (Amaqhawe) | Kofifi Fleamarket | Baby Ntsoare | Skokiaan Hellfire

Copyright © 1996 Peppercorn Press. All rights reserved.