Thursday 7 July 2011

Tony Scott in South Africa (1957)

According to Drum magazine, when American clarinetist Tony Scott toured South Africa in August of 1957 he insisted on playing before multi-racial audiences and subsequently became the first artist to do so. The album Tony Scott in South Africa which documents in part aspects of his two week visit to the country was the first in a number of long playing records that featured international musicians collaborating with South African artists. Others would soon follow including Bud Shank and of course John Mehegan who would go on to record the 1959 classics Jazz in Africa - Vol. 1 and 2 with the horn section of the Jazz Epistles (Moeketsi, Masekela, Gwangwa).

Though recorded somewhat unevenly, the Scott album features a blend of studio and live tracks played before remarkably palpable audiences. The live tracks include Scott on clarinet with Noel Stockton on piano, Bob Hill on bass and Alan Heyes on drums; making up the Tony Scott South African Quartet. While its in the studio recordings that one finds some hidden gems. Here Scott performs with the Alexandra Dead End Kids bringing together pennywhistle and clarinet in an impromptu series of kwela collaborations. The Dead End Kids, including Shakes Molepo, Benjamin Masindi, Joseph Mahlatsi and Sophonia Namini (all on pennywhistle) can also be heard on the album Kwela which probably dates from the same period. 

Tony Scott in South Africa seldom appears on auctions sites like eBay and so Electric Jive takes great pleasure in presenting this rare album. For more information about the record check out the listing at flatinternational. For more about Tony Scott check out his official website: The Musical Universe of Tony Scott

For now, the album is best captured in its liner notes:

"Tony Scott, acknowledged in 1957 by the jazz critics and public alike as the world's greatest jazz clarinetist, had been away from America for eight months when he finally reached Johannesburg in August 1957. By then he had played his way round most of Europe (including France, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Italy and Yugoslavia) but his abundant energy was unimpaired and within two hours of arriving he was playing with South African musicians and astonishing them by his vitality and enthusiasm. His tour of the Union was organised by the Witwatersrand University Jazz Appreciation Society and took him to Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. When he left for home after two very strenuous weeks, he had played every night to wildly enthusiastic audiences of all races. On his last night in South Africa he played right through the night and only just made the airport in time, but he arrived at Jan Smuts (followed by a band of supporters and musicians who had seen the night through) laden with packages, passport and ticket temporarily mislaid, still talking volubly and displaying no evident signs of exhaustion. He must surely be the most indefatigable musician ever to have visited South Africa."

"One afternoon he dropped in at the RCA Recording studios at Johannesburg while an African recording session was in progress. Four small boys, known as the Alexandra Dead End Kids, were playing a popular Marabi dance tune on penny whistles. Tony listened for a bit and within a few moments he was in the studio, unpacking his clarinet. He seemed just as familiar with the African idiom as the European one and he was soon joining in as though he had been playing African tunes all his life. The tape machine was running and the result can be heard on Side One of this record, recorded without any rehearsal, preparation or premeditation. A further cut was made of "Ou-Dhladhla"—the biggest African hit of 1957. By this time the word had got round town that Tony Scott was playing with penny whistles and within about half an hour most of the African population of the city seemed to have arrived at the studio. Disregarding protests from the recording and repertoire staff they invaded the studio (among them many photographers) and started joining in, singing and clapping. The tape machine was still running but it was impossible from the Control room to see what was going on or which microphone was which. If the result was, to say the least of it, unbalanced (and, let it be confessed, something of a shambles) it was felt to be sufficiently interesting to reproduce on the record and it can be heard on Band 3 of Side Two. Also included here is a duet between penny whistle and clarinet, "Ben's Bounce" — recorded at Tony's suggestion. After the recording the soloist, Benjamin Masindi, made Tony Scott a present of his penny whistle and this Tony would produce on the platform at his concerts and blow it with great gusto, much to the delight of his audience."

"The remaining cuts on this disc were recorded at one of Tony Scott's African concerts, among them the haunting "Moonlight in Vermont" and two numbers in which he is heard playing Baritone Saxophone. In "My Friend Dave"—a conversation piece between Bass Clarinet and String Bass—Tony features as a Scat singer. These improvisations, as well as his introductions, have been left on the disc for they recapture something of the spirit of the concerts.

Tony Scott in South Africa (1957)
RCA, Teal, South Africa

As an added bonus, herewith another recording made by Tony Scott on his extensive 1957 tour. These two tracks were recorded on 20th March 1957 in Sweden. Walkin (Williams-Steele) with Niels Foss responsible for the bass solo. Night in Tunisia (D. Gillespie). The other musicians recorded with Tony Scott comprising: Rune Ofwerman (p); Gunnar Johnson (b); Egil Johansen (dm).
Mediafire MF     Rapidshare RS


  1. Dear Siemon,

    I presume that you are responsible for this wonderful post and would like to thank you.
    It marries the clarinet or the baritone sax with vibrant pennywhistles
    Thanks again !


  2. When I first saw this post, I assumed it was the original recording of "Tony Scott in Afrika," a Music of the World collection that was posted four years ago at the (now defunct) blog Pharoah's Dance. Seven of the nine songs on this other Tony Scott release are actually from a 1970 trip to Senegal, but the final two tracks "Penny Whistle Song" and "The Zulu Walk" come from Scott's 1957 visit to South Africa—neither of which are on the recording shared here! Or, if they are, the are given under different titles. I haven't stopped salivating long enough to actually listen to this marvel. Thank you so much Siemon!

    Here is the Pharoah's Dance post:

    The RS link to the download is, amazingly, still active. Look for it in the comments.

  3. Beautiful! The marvelous Tony Scott. Thank you!


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