Boomkat Product Review:
Cafe Oto’s label unleash the extraordinary forces of South Africa’s first widely visible multi-racial jazz unit with an expanded reissue of their 1987 livication to a departed bandmate - celebratory, fizzing with energy and scything thru styles from pre-to-post-and-hard bop with scintillating improv tekkerz
Possessed of an immediate vibrancy and vitality, ‘Blue Notes For Johnny’ is presented by the London-based jazz fiends and pivotal venue as “a defining statement in the history of jazz”. Spanking new and fresh to our ears, it offers a compelling introduction to the trio of Dudu Pukwana (alto sax), Louis Moholo-Moholo (drums), and Chris McGregor (piano) paying tribute to the eponymous Johnny Dyani; the multi-instrumentalist and band;’s co-founder who travelled with them from Cape Town to Europe, and eventually the UK, in the early ‘60s, before they delineated into other units (with Don Cherry, Steve Lacy, Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath), subsequently reforming on a livication to their bandmate Mongezi Feza in 1975 (‘Blue Notes for Mongezi), and then again on this joyous memorial to Johnny following his untimely passing in late 1986.
Hingeing around thee heaviest, deftest grooves that should leave your ass and toes in no doubt what to do, ‘Blue Notes For Johnny’ is fast becoming our favourite South African jazz slab after Ndhiko Xaba and The Natives self-titled 1971 wonder, as recently reissued with Matsuli. With that one as reference point, Blue Notes’ 1987 recording gets us up to speed with developments in the South African jazz paradigm, paying witness to what the trio of Pukwana, Moholo-Moholo and McGregor had learned and absorbed over the decades of collaborations with crack players.
Mind, we’re no experts on this sound, just going off what we do know and love about it, but the tightness and definition of the rhythms can’t help but recall the fluidity in tendon-twanging rigidity of contemporary gqom and amapiano, while the vibrancy of tonal colour is clearly of another world, edging on the looseness of free and spiritual jazz frameworks but puckered ever so sharply to the all-important groove. Just no fucking about; this is deadly business bound to light up the pleasure centres and sweetspots of so many heads form all sorts disciplines. Massive recommendation!