Monday 27 January 2014

Blue Notes at Wits (1963) - John Blacking recording

Booklet promoting their last South African Tour before going
into exile in 1964. From left to right Dudu Pukwana,
Monty Weber, Chris McGregor, Mongezi Feza.
courtesy of Tony McGregor
Ian Bruce Huntley knew how to hold onto important artefacts: take for example this March 1963 recording of the Blue Notes at Wits University. Not many people knew it existed, and fewer still have heard it.

Recorded by Professor John Blacking at the University of Witwatersrand in Johanesburg on 22nd March 1963, it features Chris McGregor (Piano), Elijah Nkwanyana (Trumpet), Dudu Pukwana (saxophone), Martin Mgijima (Double Bass), and it is believed to possibly be Nelson Magwaza on drums. It is not known who features on the baritone saxophone, but it may well be Christopher Columbus (Mbra) Ngcukana – as he did play with the band during 1963.

This gig comes near the beginning of a year of extensive change and touring for the Blue Notes in South Africa, winning the best band prize at that year’s Castle Lager Jazz Festival. The Blue Notes also played the Wits Great Hall on 29th April as part of a poetry and jazz evening with Dennis Mpale replacing Elijah Nkwanyane on trumpet, and Early Mabuza on drums. The poetry was read by Zakes Mokae. They went on to do a similar poetry and jazz gig in Cape Town on 18th May, and will have driven south-north right across the country to play the University of Turfloop Graduation ball on 26th May.

Further detail to this background information can be found on Mike Fowler’s great Blue Notes archive site here.
When I asked Ian how he came to be in possession of this recording, he said he was friends with architect Julian Beinart who moved to Cape Town from Wits in 1965. Julian Beinart had intersected with John Blacking at Wits University, an English anthropologist and ethnomusicologist who originally came to South Africa under the employ of Hugh Tracey at the International Library of African Music (ILAM). Blacking gave Beinart a copy of the recording, and Beinart gave Ian a copy. You can read more of Blacking and his studies of Venda music and culture here and here.
Like Ian, Julian Beinart was a jazz aficionado. His CV says he produced two African Jazz Albums - I have written him a mail asking for more information.  Beinart’s distinguished career took him to
Disa Park, Vredehoek.
international academic and design heights at MIT. Besides being responsible for designing some important buildings in the USA, Beinart was also responsible for the Pepper Pots in Vredehoek, Cape Town.

Judging by the number of inquiries I have been receiving – especially from those of you who have purchased the book - there are quite a few Electric Jive visitors who are keen to know when the full Ian Huntley archive will become public. I am sorry to say that a bereavement in my family at the beginning of this year means it is going to take a month or so longer than I had originally anticipated. Please do be patient – I have Rose Lombard helping me out, and we are getting somewhere – but we are not there yet.

Today’s special recording comes in at around fifty minutes. Any help with identifying the opening track will be much appreciated.

1. Unidentified (11:07)

2. Vortex Special (6:56)

3. Boogie Stop Shuffle (4:20)

4. Kippie (4:33)

5. The Baptist (6:38)

6. Ukuphuma Kwetanga (2:52)

7. Jongaphu (4:48)

8. Cherokee (6:40)
Rapidshare here
Mediafire here


  1. This looks to be a real treasure. I am looking forward to hearing it. Many thanks Chris. By the way, the Mediafire link page says there are no files. Thought you would like to know.


  2. Thanks Brian - I am working on fixing this - come back in an a little while and the file should have uploaded

  3. Could someone post this album by S. V. Govender:

  4. A wonderful discovery, many thanks!

  5. Fantastic! Thank you once again Chris for your work in making this lovely music and the history around it more available. Can't wait to hear it! MB

    Yet another CMcG/Blue Notes treasure disinterred here on this utterly outstanding blog...!
    From one privileged to have witnessed their impact upon 1970-80s UK jazz, my compliments to all involved for sharing these rare gems.
    Staying tuned here for whatever else comes down the pipeline, & further exploring these pages...
    Moochas Gracias...!

  7. Many thanks grumpy MB and Escomambo for your enthusiastic support and appreciation of this music. Anonymous - I have alerted Siemon to the SV Govender request - though he probably saw it anyway :-)

  8. A belated thanks from me. Really appreciated.

  9. Wonderful, Chris. Thanks for posting and for the fascinating contextual information. Mediafire seems to be working fine.

  10. Many thanks, Chris, you and the other folks at Electric Jive are outstanding as usual. Here in Brooklyn I've got a shelf right by my desk of Blue Notes/Brotherhood related releases and I treasure every addition I can find. Caught the Brotherhood 2-3 times when I lived in Paris in the '80s, loved them all ever since.

  11. Thanks jazzuk, ubu and longbranch for stopping by and leaving encouraging messages of appreciation

  12. Excited to hear this, appreciate all the great recordings and time you put into making this great music more well known.

  13. Just found your site, really interesting stuff, a lot unknown to me but great music! Would like if possible a new link for the Dudu Pukwana album with Richard Thompson, the RS link does not work for me.. thanks a lot for some real fine music!

    Stuffy, Sweden

  14. This is great music. I was privileged to have come of age (jazzwise) in the late 60s when the Blue Notes had a Thursday night residency at Ronnie Scott's Old Place in Gerrard Street, and I still believe that it was some of the most exciting music I've ever heard. Regarding this gig, I definitely hear a tenor (Nick Moyake?) and a trombone appears on 'Cherokee'. Any ideas?


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