Monday, 2 June 2014

Sax Jive Special - Vol. 2

We're keeping this instrumental theme going for just a little bit longer here on Electric Jive. Why? Well, why not?! Sax jive happens to be one of the most peppy and sweet styles of instrumental dance music that has ever existed - and what better way of celebrating the genre than sharing with our readers another bumper collection of the very best sax jives? Following on from our last delve into the archives, we present to you Sax Jive Special - Vol. 2.

The Makgona Tsohle Band were the first guys on the scene in the 1960s to take the swing-style instrumental jive and reshape it into the more danceable, more electric and elastic mbaqanga beat which soared to amazing heights. If just one listen to real gems like "Umzinto", "Cowboy" or "Sithunyiwe Thokozile" doesn't at the very least get your foot tapping, then there's something truly wrong with your musical tastes. Under various recording pseudonyms, the men behind the Makgona Tsohle Band created the biggest instrumental hits of the day. That team - Marks Mankwane on lead guitar, Vivian Ngubane on rhythm guitar, Joseph Makwela on bass, Lucky Monama on drums and West Nkosi leading on alto saxophone - was the gold standard, the benchmark against which all other mbaqanga bands were measured.

The Makgona Tsohle Band didn't just back West - they were the Mavuthela house band who generally backed every one of the stable's saxophone players and vocal jive groups. Lemmy 'Special' Mabaso shot to fame as the child pennywhistler of the late 1950s - but by the 1960s, with kwela out and mbaqanga in, he turned to the alto sax and joined forces with Makgona Tsohle for a series of recordings that included "Sipho Special". You can clearly hear everyone in the studio feeding off each other's high spirits on this bouncy number.

Spokes Mashiyane, the man who brought sax jive to prominence, also joined forces with Mavuthela during the 1960s. It might be true to say that the great Mashiyane became sidelined and unappreciated as the style developed further and further into the more hard and bouncy mbaqanga, with the spotlight focusing instead on fresh young talent like West Nkosi, David Thekwane, Reggie Msomi, Boy Masaka and others. Mashiyane did continue to record sporadically though and did create some great sax jives with the Makgona Tsohle Band, such as "Kgwale". "Sediba" is also an enjoyable tune featuring Mashiyane on top form. The real star here though is Vivian Ngubane who bends the melody fantastically with his rhythm guitar. Ngubane, for some rather puzzling reason, seems to be generally forgotten compared to those he worked with such as Marks Mankwane and Joseph Makwela. This is all the more strange because Ngubane was nothing less than a trendsetter. His rhythm guitar, sandwiched between Mankwane's lead guitar and Makwela's bass, became the signature elastic bedrock of the music. Until Ngubane joined the Makgona Tsohle Band late in 1964, the rhythm guitar line was still being filled by an acoustic guitar player who strummed nothing more than simple chords. Ngubane's trademark sound opens "Umzinto", a good example of the staple instrumental mbaqanga that Makgona Tsohle pumped out of the Gallo studio every week.

Sipho Bhengu, before joining the famous Mango Groove and lending them his wonderful talents, was a supreme sax jive star of the 1970s. His "Welani Imifula" opens with a boisterous spoken word from Mavuthela's boss Rupert Bopape and then gives way to the musical backing of the Jets and Sipho's great sax rhythms. Another sax jive star was Selby Mmutung - better known to you and me as Bra Sello. Sello made his name playing with Abafana Bentuthuko and later joined Mavuthela, working with the late genius Mzwandile David to produce sax-accordion jives under the name Mathwalimbuzi. "Umsuzo" rather bizarrely refers to someone breaking wind and Sello certainly creates the right impression during the opening of the tune. Reggie Msomi was also a talented somebody. During the 1960s, Msomi and his Hollywood Jazz Band (usually comprising Reggie on sax backed by the talented Makgona Tsohle Band!) produced some rather adventurous instrumental hits - taking sax jive and mixing it with various other styles such as soul, ska or reggae. "Chumba" is a great tune with some hints of Congo rumba. Aaron Jack Lerole also turned and twisted sax jive and took it to newer heights. "Space Age" is simply amazing - just listen and hear for yourself.

The marvellous Zwino Zwino Boys, led by bass guitarist James Mukwevho, bring our compilation to a fitting close with the excellent "Thala Thala". This has to be one of my favourite sax jives of all time. Sam Jagome effortlessly kicks everything off with a few calm strums of his electric lead guitar. The rest of the band joins in and this combined force works up some truly magical rhythms. The late Sam has to be one of the forgotten geniuses of mbaqanga music. He followed Marks Mankwane's unique innovations and ended up creating a signature style all of his own. Sam's beautiful lead guitar strains could be heard not only in the Zwino Zwino Boys but also behind the spirited vocals of Izintombi Zomoya.

Our thanks to Laurent Dalmasso for contributing two wonderful tracks to this compilation from the original 78 rpm discs - "Sediba" and "Sipho Special". All you need to do now is download this mix and get yourself ready for some serious jiving until you drop.

ENJOY!

SAX JIVE SPECIAL - VOL. 2

01) PAKU PAKU - MAKHOLOKHOLO (1965)
02) SEDIBA - SPOKES AND HIS GOLDEN SAX (1966)
03) UMZINTO - LUCKY MONAMA AND HIS PARTNERS (1968)
04) CHUMBA - REGGIE MSOMI AND HIS HOLLYWOOD JAZZ BAND (1969)
05) SIPHO SPECIAL - LEMMY MABASO AND HIS SAX (1965)
06) JIVE SMODERN JIVE - MAKHOLOKHOLO (1965)
07) COWBOY - WEST NKOSI AND HIS SAX (1967)
08) TADIMA TADIMA - ZWINO ZWINO BOYS (1971)
09) WELANI IMIFULA - SIPHO BHENGU AND HIS JETS (1973)
10) MANYANE JIVE PART TWO - POPS AND SONS (1976)
11) PULL MAN NO. 2 - MARKS AND THE SHALUZA BOYS (1976)
12) UMSUZO - MATHWALIMBUZI (1976)
13) BATHATHE GEORGE - ABAKHWENYANA (1973)
14) KIT BAG - MAMBAZA NABAFANA BOMSHOSHOLOZO (1971)
15) FOUR MABONE - WEST NKOSI NABASHOKOBEZI (1973)
16) AMANZI AMANCANE NO. 5 - LUCKY MONAMA AND HIS PARTNERS (1971)
17) SITHUNYIWE THOKOZILE - MAKGOLOKGOLO (1967)
18) KGWALE - SPOKES AND HIS GOLDEN SAX (1967)
19) SPACE AGE - BIG VOICE JACK (1971)
20) THALA THALA - ZWINO ZWINO BOYS (1971)

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