South Africa's illustrious jazz history is sadly made more precious because there is much that should have been recorded and documented that exists only in the memories of transitioning generations. Those recordings that do exist become even more precious and important because there was so much more that was worthy of preserving.
While many stellar performances were offered in public places those smaller audiences were no match for the sometimes unruly crowds that were called to the occasional 'super-gig' at stadiums and amphitheatres. Despite the checquered past of competitive jazz festivals, combined with the management challenges and cost risks, these festivals did continue to occur during the seventies, especially in Johannesburg and Pretoria.
The recording shared today was made at the Jabulani Amphitheatre in Soweto by David Marks, Nino Rivera and Toma Simons. The six bands featured include: The Jazz Ministers, The Soul Jazz Men, Drive (with all three Sithole Brothers), The Jazz Resurrection, The Shange Brothers, and the Jazz Clan.
The production was undertaken for sponsors, the South African Wool Board and Michelangelo (a company that made wool clothing, including mens' suits). The album was released by WEA Records on the Atlantic Label (ATC8001).
An additional fascination for me is that a number of the artists featured here, were recorded and photographed by Ian Bruce Huntley some years before, such as Psych Big T Ntsele (of the Soul Jazz Men), Henry Sithole (The Drive), Nelson Magwaza (drums) and Sandile Shange (Shange Brothers). The Ian Bruce Huntley will soon become fully available via Electric Jive - watch this space.
Today's recording features six bands competing in front of an enthusiastic audience, bringing some powerful Xhosa rhythym fusions in Nolali, but also hinting at the early influence of disco and soul via other bands.
This is what Elliot Makhaya, Jazz Critic for The World and Weekend World, had to say:
"The Michelangelo National Jazz Festival was not just another festival. It was the gathering of jazz kings from many parts of the coutnry. They came on that bright and sunny afternoon and seconds after taking the stage they blew our minds - with good jazz vibes. It was a whacking time those jazz ravers had. The bands needed some amount of exporsure and got it - thanks to the Michelangelo and Woolmark.
From the Cape cam the Soul Jazzmen. They gave us a beautiful treat of jazz spiced with Xhosa rhythm. They were powerful and snatched the first prize. From the coast came the Jazz Resurrection and the Shange Brothers. the Drive, Jazz Ministers and the Jazz Clan were among the finalists.
Late in the afternoon a cool breeze blew across the Jabulani Amphitheatre where it was all happening. The musicians, as if inspired by the breeze, rendered really breezu stuff. They exploded to life. They were vibrant, tasty and joyful.
The Michelangelo National Jazz Festival proved that South African jazzophites can be brought together for a mammoth jazz occasion. The festival itself has gone down in the annals of our jazz history. Those who were around will readily agree. To those that could not make it, and missed out on seeing the musicians in action, this album is a showcase of what happened there that bright afternoon. The mood is captured in the album. The music is vibrant and you have got it all on one LP - A FESTIVAL WE ALL LOVED!
The winners, the Soul Jazzmen, romped home because of their outstanding originality. they mixed Western influences with Xhosa rhythm. The Jazz Ministers can close with their stunning jazz ditties. To tell you more about that beautiful afternoon would be tantamount to robbing you of the gem that is about to explode - so go right ahead and play this album at top volume!"
(The World and Weekend World Jazz Critic).
The Soul Jazz Men (Port Elizabeth)
Psych Big T Ntsele - Bass/leader
Victor Miza - Trumpet
Dudley Tito - Tenor Sax
Castor Bassine - Tenor Sax
Bucs Matiwane - Piano
Bucs Sandi - Drums/percussion
Luluama Gonstana - Drums/percussion
Jazz Clan (Johannesburg)
Peter Segona - Trumpet
Sipho Mabaso - Tenor Sax
Connie Kumalo - Baritone
Rubin Radise - Trombone
Dimpie Tshabalala - Electric Piano
David Ramogasi - Drums
Mongezi Velelo - Bass
Henry Sithole - Alto Sax
Danny Sithole - Trumpet
Stanley Sithole - Tenor Sax
Nelson Magwaza - Drums
Tony Soali - Bass
Bunny Luthuli - Guitar
Lucky Mbatha - Vocal
The Jazz Resurrection (Durban)
Band members not listed
Jazz Ministers (Benoni)
Victor Ndlazilwane - Tenor Sax
Nomvula Ndlazilwane - piano
Johnny Mekoa - Trumpet
Shepstone Sothopane - Drums
Boy Ngwenya - Bass
The Shange Brothers (Durban)
Sandile Shange - guitar
Cyril Shange - Tenor Sax
Claude Shange - Piano
Boysi Shange - Drums
Roger Mthimkulu - Bass