Thursday 14 November 2013

Hidden South African Jazz archive comes to life

Tonight at a public lecture in the City of York there will be a live performance of four South African jazz compositions found in the Ian Bruce Huntley archive. The "original" Ian Huntley recordings are shared here today in celebration of the great work that Jonathan Eato and students at the Department of Music at the University of York are doing in bringing Ian's archive alive in a most positive manner. Jazz legend Louis Moholo-Moholo will be there tonight, participating in the celebration.

Jonathan is talking to an interested audience about the Ian Bruce Huntley archive, showing some of the pictures, and to illustrate some of the material found in the audio archive, he
Ronnie Beer: Pic © Ian Huntley
has taken the trouble to transcribe the music and give "the dots" as he calls the sheet music, to four students who will be performing compositions by Tete Mbambisa (Leads Dwana); Ronnie Beer (Immediately); Ebrahim Kalil Shihab aka Chris Schilder (Look Up ) and Winston Mankunku Ngozi (Ekhaya).

In writing to me about the planned event tonight, and the process leading up to it, Jonathan had the following to say:

"Obviously this couldn't have happened without Ian's recordings. They (the students) will play them as part of the Merchant Adventurer talk .... And what's great is that Mpumi Moholo and Louis Moholo-Moholo will be there (although this is making the drummer both very nervous and very excited). I wonder if these compositions have ever been played outside South Africa?

"When they're tidied up I'll send the dots through for Ian (if that's of interest to him...). In listening to this music in detail so I could transcribe it for the students the interesting thing to me is that although improvisation over blues sequences are ubiquitous in jam sessions and gigs with impromptu bands, 'Immediately', 'Leads Dwana' and 'Look Up' all do this in unusual ways. Probing and exploring the form in one way or another.

"The head for 'Look Up' is thirteen bars (the usual 12 with a sort of one bar hiatus added to the end), whereas 'Immediately' has an extra two beats added to bars 4 and 12 - which also gives a total length of 13 bars but with the elongations split up and spread throughout the head, if that makes sense. 'Leads Dwana' is really doing my head in - it's heavily modal but I think I'm going to have to do more work on trying to understand how it works (or perhaps hope that Tete will explain it to me - assuming we can find a language that makes sense to both of us). Anyways it's a 32 bar modal head which covers the main harmonic centres of a typical jazz blues without using the form, or the bebop language prevalent in modern jazz blues.

"Of course these musicians were aware of Miles Davis' work etc. (hence 'Milestones' etc featuring so often in the IBH recordings) - and even though Davis recorded that in 1958, Herbie Hancock's 'Maiden Voyage' (the other great landmark of modal jazz) wasn't recorded until a year *after* Barney Rachabane, Ronnie Beer, Dennis Mpale, Tete Mbambisa, Max Dayimani and Sammy Maritz recorded 'Leads Dwana' in the studios at Thibault Square."

Jackie, Philly and Chris Schilder
Pic © Ian Huntley
I hope the musically technical stuff made sense to some of you, I just nod my head and happily accept that I can still love and appreciate the music without really understanding the intricacies of how it is constructed.
Ian's recordings are believed to be the first or earliest recordings of all of these compositions - and as Jonathan wonders aloud, have they even been played outside of South Africa - before tonight? By my amateur reckoning, I do believe, Ronnie Beer's "Immediately" has the greatest chance of having been  performed in Europe while Beer was there playing with Chris McGregor and the Blue Notes. 

In addition to the two versions of "Immediately" already shared on this blog (The Thibault Square recording at 7:55) here and (Room At the Top) a 15 min 46sec take here  - we are sharing two more versions. A 9:52 take, from another fine performance by Mpale, Rachabane, Mbambisa, Beer, Mgijima and Dayimani at the Room at the Top - at the end of which you can hear one of the band members commenting about Max Dayimani "hitting the drums". The second take is a 13min 55sec version, also performed by the same members at the Room At The Top in 1964.
"Look Up" features on the 1968 vinyl holy grail - Chris Schilder Quintet's "Spring". The 3:35 version also features on Volume 3 of the great Strut Next Stop Soweto Compilation issued in 2010. The 1966 version of Spring recorded by Ian in District Six, Cape Town stretches to close on eight minutes performed by a Schilder family trio.

Tete Mbambisa's  Leads Dwana also deserves to be heard internationally, and perhaps it has been already. Who knows? Here, the Jazz Disciples - with Sammy Maritz on bass - provide a swinging eight-minute rendition.

The recording of Ekhaya is unlikely to have been performed and is not widely known. The recording shared here today was not a public performance and is not of the best sound quality, but those who recognize its importance will forgive that.

The musicians playing the four compositions at the live gig tonight are: Will Edwards (drums), Twm Dylan (bass), Joe McGrail (piano), Ben Turner (alto saxophone).

In his talk, Jonathan will be outlining the thesis he puts forward in his essay contained in the book "Keeping Time". Thank you to all of you who have pre-ordered the book - and for your kind and encouraging words. For those of you who have not yet reserved your copy - it might be a good idea. Click on the picture of the book on the side-bar - it will give you an e-mail address. Send me an e-mail requesting a copy, and I will send you further details.
1. Look Up  (7:59) (Chris Schilder): Chris Schilder (piano), Philly Schilder (bass), Jackie Schilder (drums) - recorded at the Moses House, Smart Street, District Six ~1966.
2. Ekhaya (7:35) (Winston Mankunku Ngozi) Winston Mankunku Ngozi (tenor), Ebrahim Kalil Shihab (Chris Schilder) (Piano), Midge Pike (Bass), Selwyn Lissack (Drums). Recorded at a practice session at Selwyn Lissack's Bantry Bay garage studio - 1966.
3. Immediately (Ronnie Beer) ver a (9:52) Dennis Mpale (trumpet), Barney Rachabane (alto), Ronnie Beer (tenor), Tete Mbambisa (piano), Martin Mgijima (bass), Max Dayimani (drums). Performed at the Room at the Top, Strand Street, Cape Town 1964.
4. Immediately (Ronnie Beer) ver b (13:55) Dennis Mpale (trumpet), Barney Rachabane (alto), Ronnie Beer (tenor), Tete Mbambisa (piano), Martin Mgijima (bass), Max Dayimani (drums). Performed at the Room at the Top, Strand Street, Cape Town 1964.
5. Leads Dwana  (11:32) (Tete Mbambisa) Dennis Mpale (trumpet), Barney Rachabane (alto), Ronnie Beer (tenor), Tete Mbambisa (piano), Martin Mgijima (bass), Max Dayimani (drums). Performed at the Room at the Top, Strand Street, Cape Town 1964.
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  1. Really great news and wonderful way to recognise the South African vibes

  2. Agree Andrew - I am sure there is more good news to come


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