Harry Miller: Which Way Now (2006)

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Harry Miller: Which Way Now
To understand the full impact of this first-time issue of thirty year-old material, it's necessary to know what a hotbed of musical activity London was in the '60s and '70s. The city was bursting with creative energy and everything came together there—avant-garde jazz, jazz rock, international music, new music and more. One of the key figures in this surge was bassist/composer/improviser Harry Miller, an expatriate South African who joined other South Africans in London—Chris McGregor, Dudu Pukwana, Mongezi Feza, Louis Moholo, Johnny Dyani and others—to create a vibrant new mode of expression. They found sympathetic players on the English scene including Keith Tippett, John Surman, Alan Skidmore and Elton Dean, to name a few.

Miller formed his own record label Ogun and his own group, Isipingo (named after a vacation spot in South Africa), performed now memorable concerts and did historic and important recordings to document the activity, mostly, of his South African fellows. Cuneiform has been beautifully documenting this scene and they have now chosen to release Which Way Now, a previously unreleased 75-minute radio concert. It's a wild and wonderful raucous affair, with four extended performances by the only Isipingo recording to feature Feza and including Nick Evans (trombone), Louis Moholo (drums), Mike Osborne (alto sax) and Keith Tippett (piano).

The music is melodic and danceable yet also noisy and rambunctious and it seethes with the energy of its time and a timeless spirit of invention. Miller wrote all the tunes and the creativity never flags—these men sound as if they're creating something important and, amazingly, as if they're having a great time. Though all of the solos are strong, particular standouts are Tippett, who powers the music forward and also looks backward to the jazz tradition, and Feza, who brings the folk spirit of his home country and finds the places where it is in harmonic and cultural sympathy with the creative jazz of the time. The spirit of this whole recording informed a generation of music and continues to inspire with its freedom.

Track Listing: Family Affair; Children at Play; Elis Song; Which Way Now.

Personnel: Nick Evans: trombone; Mongezi Feza: trumpet; Harry Miller: bass; Louis Moholo: drums; Mike Osborne: alto saxophone; Keith Tippett: piano.

Record Label: Cuneiform Records

Style: Modern Jazz


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