Monday 4 November 2013

More Mankunku from Ian Bruce Huntley's archive

Winston Mankunku Ngozi - Morris Goldberg in background. Pic: Ian Bruce Huntley

It is a matter of a month or two before Electric Jive visitors will have full open access to the more than 56 hours of music recorded by Ian Bruce Huntley - and also be able to see many of the pictures featured in "Keeping Time", the limited edition book that will become available later this month.

The books, printed in Hong Kong, were loaded on a ship two days ago and are expected in the UK on 2nd December, and in Durban on 24th November. Siemon Allen in the USA will be receiving 50 copies via courier this week (holding thumbs Siemon).  There are 500 copies printed - we will soon provide details on costs and ordering.

The photo of Winston Mankunku Ngozi you see featured above is the only one in Ian's book that has not been digitally restored - while the scratching is particularly bad, it is also a kind of a nod from Siemon Allen (who put the book's great layout together) to the wonderful mood of the picture, and also to Cedric Nunn - who put many many hours into digitally repairing all the other images featured.

Keeping Time contains a substantial and fascinating essay by Jonathan Eato, the University of York-based composer and musician who worked with Bra Tete Mbambisa in releasing his solo piano work, "Black Heroes".

Jonathan describes in his essay how Ian set up the recording equipment on stages - when there was electricity available.

"Huntley would set up four microphones and use their proximity to the instruments to create a balanced ‘mix’. Relatively few of the photographs show Huntley’s microphone placement, but listening to the recordings one is struck by the clarity of the sound. As the pianos used in the various venues were all uprights, Huntley would place one microphone behind the instrument to pick up sound directly from the soundboard, with a second microphone placed near the drums. Huntley also reports experimenting with a piece of foam that had a hole cut in the middle to hold his third microphone. This enabled the microphone to be wedged into the bridge of the bass, accounting for the high quality bass response on the recordings (a level of fidelity which was probably not available to either the musicians or audiences at the time of the performance). Another of Huntley’s techniques was to put the fourth microphone inside a lampshade, which then acted as an improvised parabolic reflector to gather the overall sound of the horns. Once the microphones were in place, Huntley would be free to leave the tape running – until the tape ran out at least – whilst he attended to his camerawork." 

Jonathan then goes on to describe how the musicians would gather in Ian's flat to carefully listen to their recordings, coming to one of many interesting conclusions:

"Although one can only speculate at this point, it is not inconceivable that Huntley’s recordings were instrumental in contributing to the practice of modern jazz in South Africa. A pianist enabled to hear a walking bass line with clarity – even if not in the immediacy of performance – might well be further encouraged to explore the rootless left hand voicings they heard on records by Bud Powell, Bill Evans and others pioneering the practice in the U.S."

In keeping with the spirit of Ian's work, Jonathan's full essay will become available as an open access document - but not before the book comes out.

So - in all-round celebration, herewith nearly two hours (240mb) of some more gems from the archive - which Ian's records say were recorded at the Art Centre on 29th September 1966.

Art Centre (September 1966)

Tape 33
11 tracks at 1:54:21
Art Centre, Green Point Common, Cape Town.

Winston Mankunku Ngozi (tenor), Chris Schilder (piano), Midge Pike1 (bass), Selwyn Lissack (drums), unidentified2 (trumpet), Merton Barrow (vibes)3, Morris Goldberg4 (tenor).

1. Blues for Gary Peacock (7:14)
2. Summertime (George Gershwin) (11:16)
3. Woody ‘n’ You (Dizzy Gillespie) (8:54)
4. Nardis (Miles Davis) (7:13)2
5. Majong (Wayne Shorter) (13:40)
6. Love for Sale (Cole Porter) (16:02)
7. Well You Needn’t (Monk) (15:11)
8. Bessies Blues (John Coltrane) (8:42)
9. You Would Be So Nice To Come Home To (Cole Porter) [bass solo1] (4:15)
10. Misty (Erroll Garner) (11:04)
11. Groovy Blues (10:46)3 & 4

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  1. Hi Chris,

    Another gem of IBH recordings !
    I definitely am eager to read your book.
    Chris is really good at the piano.


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