Monday 1 July 2013

Nick Moyake and the "Soul Jazzmen" (1965)

The core of what became the "Soul Jazzmen" at Salt River - Vuyiswa Ngcwangu (or possibly Nosisi Rululu),
 Duku Makasi, Dennis Mpale Nick Moyake, Psych Big T Ntsele, Tete Mbambisa: Pic Ian Bruce Huntley
This previously unreleased 1965 live recording at The Ambassador's in Woodstock Cape Town features the early foundations of what became the legendary “Soul Jazzmen” plus Dennis Mpale. Saxophonists Nick Moyake and Duku Makasi, drummer Peter Jackson jnr along with Psych Big T Ntsele on bass went on to form the Soul Jazzmen.

Nick Moyake, Dennis Mpale, Duku Makasi: Pic Ian Huntley
While Ian Huntley is not certain on who the female vocalist featured on this historic recording is, it seems to me this might well be Vuyiswa Ngcwangu, who also performed and recorded with the Soul Jazzmen at the “Mankunku Jazz Show” in May 1968. Vuysiwa and Tete Mbambisa became married in 1964. The only missing link in this recording is Tete Mbambisa, as Shakes Masdorph Mgudlwa is playing piano here. Shakes was originally from Flagstaff in the Transkei and was one of Tete Mbambisa's early mentors when he moved to East London.

Nick (Nikele) Moyake can be considered the 'gódfather' in this band as it was him who taught both Duku Makasi and Dudu Pukwana to play saxophone. Johnny Dyani recalled Moyake as the influence in South Africa.

Mackay Davashe and Nik Moyake
Dorkay House 1966
Pic: Ian Huntley
Dennis Mpale, and to a lesser extent Nick Moyake, both had reputations of being self assured and not suffering perceived insults gladly. There are various legendary stories recorded of both musicians  getting bands into sticky situations with the police and anyone else in authority who they felt insulted by. They did have the musical abilities to match their confidence though. "The Mpale attitude" became a term used by local musicians. Moyake nearly got the Blue Notes locked up the night before their departure from South Africa because he gave a white policeman at a roadblock backchat and lip, telling him that he, Moyake, was more famous than the policeman.
There are sadly not many recordings of Nick Moyake. He features prominently with the Blue Notes on “Township Bop” (as does Dennis Mpale), and “Legacy: Live in South Africa”. Moyake’s life was cut short not long after returned to South Africa, having left  the Blue Notes in Europe during 1965. Nick Moyake was playing with the Soul Jazzmen when he died of what is said by some to be  a brain tumour. Vuyiswa Ngcwangu, during Lars Rasmussen's interview with Tete Mbambisa, reports that Moyake's death was precipitated by a three-day binge on pure alcohol given to the band in Alice by a medical student from the University of Fort Hare. (Jazz People of Cape Town pg. 150). Accounts of the year of his death vary from 1965 to 1969. It seems likely it was before Dennis Mpale's Soul Giants recorded "I Remember Nick" in 1968.

In her book on Chris McGregor and the Brotherhood of Breath, Maxine McGregor describes Moyake's playing as 'much more peaceful and laconic .. than Dudu, he was the master of creating an átmosphere'with his tenor, its soft mellow voice reminiscent of quiet places, walks by the riverside, golden afternoons. He was a complex person person, Nik, with his slow deep voice, his eyes soft, slanty, almond-shaped; looking deep into your eyes, he could talk you into almost anything."

Moyake's death reverberated among South African jazz lovers. Both Johnny Dyani and Dudu Pukwana composed songs entitled "Blues for Nick", Shakes Mgudllwa composed "Tribute to Nick", and in 1969 Dennis Mpale's Soul Giants recorded the album "I Remember Nick", which you can find here.

Nick Moyake at Dorkay House (1966).
Pic Ian Huntley
Ian Bruce Huntley made this recording at the Ambassador’s Club in Woodstock, Cape Town in late 1965 soon after Moyake had returned home. Captured on his Tandberg 6 reel-to-reel tape on a crowded stage, Ian had some challenges with where he could place his microphones, having some effect on the mix, and not giving full effect to the female vocalist.

Returning to issues of attitude and confidence, Johnny dyani relates a story in various documented interviews, Jurg Solothurnmann in 1983) and to Aryan Kaganof in 1985 interview  of Nick Moyake becoming angry with the way in which he felt treated by Wayne Shorter down at a party hosted by Dollar Brand in Zurich in 1965.  “I remember Nick in Zurich at Dollar’s party. Dollar invited the Miles Davis group rhythm section: Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams, and Wayne Shorter. Nick told Wayne Shorter right in front of us when we were at that party, just pheww! That guy even today when he sees me, when he sees the Blue Notes, I wonder ’cos that guy might hate us or some shit because he cannot stand what Nick told him. Dollar said, ‘This is Nick Moyake.’ Nick holds this guy’s hand man. He holds it, grips it, and says, ‘You ain’t shit. What you play I played it before.’ And he holds his hand; the guy is pulling his hand! We were there in this party in Zurich. Dollar said, ‘How can you do this at my party, why you so rude to my guests?’ So Nick said, ‘He ain’t shit I played this before. He’s coming with an attitude.’ But WE! We were full of shit of man!”.
Vuyiswa 'Viva' Ngcwangu as she appears
on the Record sleeve of the
Winston Mankunku Show (1968)

Jurg Solothurnmann relates the same Dyani story as ".. somehow Nick was very annoyed, I don't know because of the attitude Wayne Shorter gave him or what. But I heard nick telling Wayne: "I used to play what you are playing". I knew he was very advanced, but I was shocked that he was aware of it and was speaking up even though he was very shy."(quoted in Lars Rasmussen's book on the photographs of Hardy Stockman).

In the late 1950s the Ambassadors School of Dancing in Woodstock (its original name) was home to a group of jazz musicians who regularly jammed there - including Chris McGregor, Cups and Saucers Nkanuka, Christopher Columbus Ngcukana, Dave Galloway, and Martin Mgijima. A year after the departure of the Blue Notes to Europe, the Ambassadors was still hosting amazing  sessions with the remaining stalwarts – including this one with the returned Blue Note, Nick Moyake.

You can find the original Soul Jazzmen recording of Inhlupekho here.

If you have not yet had chance to explore other Electric Jive postings from Ian Huntley's audio archive, the easiest way to do this is to use the search function on the right hand column of this blog. Search "IBH Jazz".

A full discography of Ian's 56-hour audio archive, and around 130 of Ian's photos will be published by Electric Jive as a non-profit tribute book at the end of this year. More details to follow.

"Soul Jazzmen" at The Ambassadors (1965)

Unknown female vocalist (possibly Vuyiswa Ngcwangu), Dennis Mpale (trumpet), Nik Moyake (sax), Duku Makasi (sax), Shakes Mgudlwa (piano), Psych Big T Ntsele (bass), Peter Jackson Jnr. (drums)

1. Milestones (13:13)

2. Unidentified track (14:48)

3. Track 3 - unidentified  (3:19)

4. Track 4 - unidentified (8:10)

5. Love for Sale (3:42)

6. 'Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered' (Rodgers & Hart). (5:21)
Rapidshare here
Mediafire here


  1. Wow. Just wow. So much vital, crucial information packed into this offering. Not the least of which, the amazing post-Europe sounds of Nikele. I have been dutifully repeating the story of his sudden brain tumor—even going so far as to speculating that his morose behavior with the Blue Notes in Europe was due to effects of the advancing tumor—for years on the radio. Sigh.

    This is beyond a treasure. Thank you Mr. Albertyn and Mr. Huntley.

    Consider this my official pre-order for the IBH book.

  2. Thanks Doug - a book is reserved for you! The tumour story could still hold - though it seems that Moyake was still performing publically just days before he departed

  3. Marvelous! Thank you again for this fantastic documentation. A long shot question, are there any extant recordings of the Swingin' City Six (with Feza/Moholo/Beer)? Cheers, MB

  4. Great stuff, which I've only just got round to. Track 6 is 'Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered' (Rodgers & Hart).

    Bob D.

  5. Many thanks Bob D - your help is very much appreciated

  6. Everything has been already said about all these amazing gems you're offering to us at your miraculous place !...
    On my side I would only add my feeling of mixed emotion and respect...thanks beaucoup.

  7. One more song ID: #2 is Hank Mobley's "Hipsippy Blues"

    The tune can be heard as the opener of Art Blakey's "At the Jazz Corner of the World" Vol. 1, a Blue Note live recording with Mobley and Lee Morgan - a favourite of mine!

  8. Many thanks Ubu! Apologies for my delay in responding, I have been away on some R&R without computer access. In the coming month I will be updating all the tracks and details in Ian's archive -so thank you for all help received!! There will be a dedicated portal on Electric Jive with pages containing Ian's photos and links to all 56 hours of his audio archive, plus open access to the articles written for "Keeping Time".

  9. Very good! And glad to help, whenever I can! I'm so delighted to have all this music (and now the wonderful book), it's really the least I can do!


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