Monday, 3 September 2012

The Top 14 - Sax Jive & Kwela (1960 - 1964)

Today we feature a great transitional LP that sits somewhere between the late majuba jazz sounds of the 1950s and the very early mbaqanga perfected by the team at Mavuthela in the mid 1960s. Many of the key architects of that Mavuthela sound — West Nkosi, Reggie Msomi — are featured on this album and in some respects this album could be viewed as a precursor to the coming stylistic phenomenon.

Certainly the debt to the swing-based majuba (African Jazz) big band sounds of the 1950s is undeniable on this record. With hints of ska and swing, I would define the bulk of the tunes as "sax jives" though also included are four flute-based kwelas.  The two styles are historically linked and had been ever since Spokes Mashiyane exchanged his flute for a saxophone in 1958 and began playing sax-based kwelas. Missing from the album though is that elastic electric baseline that so typified the mbaqanga sound... and that can be heard on two slightly later compilations featured here at Electric Jive: Lets Move with Makhona Tsohle Band (1967) and Taxi Jive (c1965)

Issued in 1964, The Top 14 does appear to be GRC's first LP release on the Tempo label. The album, like many others during this time, comprised of tracks previously issued as 78 rpms with recording dates probably ranging from 1960 to 1964.

David Thekwane
This compilation includes six tunes by, saxophonist, David Thekwane — aka Velile the King — who would go on to become a major producer for Teal records in the 1970s. As a young penny whistler in Pimville, Johannesburg, Thekwane came to the attention of talent-scout Strike Vilikazi who brought him on as an assistant and salesman at Trutone Records in 1955. Thekwane's first group was the Mofolo North Stone Breakers but after taking up the alto-sax continued recording under a number of different pseudonyms including Mr. Dube, Velile the King, Baby Face, etc. On this album he performs with or as Velile the King of the Tap Steps, the TV Septet and the Black Night Hammers. According to Yvonne Huskisson, Thekwane moved to Teal as a producer in February, 1969 though Rob Allingham has it as 1972. Nevertheless one of his biggest selling groups at Teal were the iconic Movers and he was producing their records as early as 1970. Allingham also suggests that Thewane intimidated many of his musicians with physical violence — an interesting detail enhanced by Huskisson's last note that his favorite hobby was boxing.

West Nkosi also performs here under two pseudonyms — "West and Sax Boy" and Western Boys — featuring amongst others, himself and Lazarus 'Kid' Moncho.

The album also includes the track Walk to Dube by the Snqamu Jazz Band which was later reissued on the compilation: Township Swing Jazz Vol. 2 compiled by Rob Allingham. Allingham’s notes on the CD set the recording date for this particular tune as September 27, 1960 and the band personal as: Thami Madi on 1st alto, Christopher Songxaka on 2nd alto, Paul Rametsi on tenor, Jordan Bangazi on trumpet, Reggie Msomi on guitar, Saul Manikela on banjo, Johannes 'Chooks' Tshukudu on bass and Louis Molubi on drums. (With solos by Jordan Bangazi and Paul Rametsi.) Remarkably the line-up here comes closes to Spokes’ Mashiyane’s Big Five at Gallo which is not unusual considering that GRC was a subsidiary of Gallo's.

GRC itself, though initially a separate company, had a relationship with Gallo where they shared the same recording studios hence the common ABC matrix numbers. At some point the two companies would eventually merge to become Gallo - GRC.

As with issues on 78 and 45 rpm, the Tempo label on The Top 14 LP is consistent with the first design showing a trumpet on yellow and blue. In 1966 the label was sold to Trutone where the design remained the same for some issues, but was eventually redesigned with the familiar black and green pictured above.

To read the liner notes or view the track listing, check out the album here at flatinternational.

Various Artists
The Top 14
LKT 701
issued 1964

1 comment:

  1. Your blog is full of dopeness, sir!!!

    I love sharing too, so thanks


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