Founder of South African group the Blue Notes and, later in London, the Brotherhood of Breath, pianist Chris McGregor (born in the Transkei to Scottish missionary parents) was among the first musicians to take what became known as township jazz" beyond South Africa, when he and the Blue Notes went into voluntary exile in 1964. Like pianist Dollar Brand (later Abdullah Ibrahim) and trumpeter Hugh Masekela, who had both left the country in the wake of 1960's Sharpeville massacre, McGregor ...read more
Chris McGregor (1936-1990) is best known as the pianist/leader of the Brotherhood of Breath and its small band antecedent the Blue Notes, the group that he formed in South Africa in 1963. The inter-racial band elected for a voluntary European exile from their homeland and its policies that would ban their very right to assemble. In the heady '60s, their blend of bop and Township rhythms rapidly melded with free jazz, creating one of the most dynamic musical mixes of ...read more
Chris McGregor Group Very Urgent Fledg'ling 2008 Chris McGregor Septet Up to Earth Fledg'ling 2008 Brotherhood of Breath Eclipse at Dawn Cuneiform 2007
It reasonably could be argued that without the arrival of pianist Chris McGregor and the Blue Notes, British jazz would ...read more
This one only goes to show how easy review writing can sometimes be. Imagine a band that on the occasion captured for posterity here consisted of eleven pieces caught on a night when they were in sparkling form. That doesn't do it justice. Arguably as much a political statement by dint of its very being as much as it was a musical aggregation, South African pianist McGregor's Anglo-South African band always specialized in music that was vibrantly and urgently alive. ...read more
This archival release of South African pianist-composer Chris McGregor's music was recorded in 1969, ostensibly as a follow-up to the Blue Notes' Very Urgent (Polydor, 1968), also reissued by Fledg'ling. It serves as somewhat of a missing link between the Euro-African free jazz of their debut and the township and kwela-inflected big band looseness of the Brotherhood of Breath, whose first proper recording was still a year away.
For whatever reason, this session went unissued, though ...read more
In the spoken introduction to the latest archival recording from pianist Chris McGregor and the Brotherhood of Breath, emcee Ronnie Scott quips that South Africa is a wonderful place...to come from." The audience at the 1971 Berlin Jazztage responds with uneasy laughter at Scott's thinly-veiled politics, then cheers as Dudu Pukwana tartly comments with his horn.
Improvised musics, and especially jazz, are itinerant musics borne out of difficult social and political situations, and the audacity of a racially-mixed ...read more
The advent of a recording from the Brotherhood of Breath is a time of eager anticipation. The band was always inventive, their music challenging. They rode the winds of free jazz, added the flavor of dance music and enticed with the beat of the kwela. They bring all these elements together once more on this live recording from the Berlin JazzTage festival on November 4, 1971.
The music on the recording is continuous. Yet it does ...read more
The story of pianist Chris McGregor's life and music is like that of many creative South African musicians: a tale of trial and redemption. McGregor trained classically in South Africa, playing jazz on the side. After finishing school, he joined with mixed-race bands that prevented him from surviving in the racist South African climate. Soon after forming his working sextet in 1962, McGregor and the Blue Notes fled to Europe, where they met an enthusiastic reception. In 1970, McGregor (then ...read more