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Album Review

Roots: Deeper Roots

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Roots: Deeper Roots
Originally released in South Africa in 1975, Deeper Roots—reissued in spring 2022 on the Canadian vinyl-only label We Are Busy Bodies—inhabits a place on the instrumental jazz/R&B spectrum akin to that of US label Prestige's juke-box singles of the 1960s by artists such as tenor saxophonist Gene Ammons (according to label boss Bob Weinstock, Prestige's biggest seller by a country mile).

Roots' guitarist and producer Almon Memela takes Ammons' Saturday night recipe—four on the floor grooves, simple melodies and soulful solos which never frighten the horses—and lays the backbeats down even more firmly.

Which is all fine; the music has no pretensions to be anything other than goodtime. But in alto saxophonist Barney Rachabane, tenor saxophonist Duke Makhasa and keyboard player Jabu Nkosi in particular, Roots has muscular soloists who one cannot help wishing would sometimes be taken off Memela's short lead and allowed to romp off-piste a little. Stand out tracks are "Song For My Baby," on which Nkosi comes on like Ramsey Lewis at his funkiest, and "Don't Cry" and "Deeper Roots" for the saxophones.

At a few seconds over twenty-seven minutes, Deeper Roots' playing time is short. But on its own terms, sweet.

Also reissued by We Are Busy Bodies is Memela's Funky Africa (Gallo, 1975), which opens with a cover of Donny Hathaway and Leroy Hutson's "The Ghetto" (a modest chart hit for Hathaway in 1969), and takes the recipe further down the road towards soul and funk. Again on its own terms, an enjoyable album.

Track Listing

Don’t Cry; Deeper Roots; To All My Friends; Steel Man; Song For My Baby; Ubabam Zakes.

Personnel

Almon Memela: guitar; Barney Rachabane: saxophone, alto; Duke Makhasa: saxophone, tenor; Dennis Mghale: trumpet; Jabu Nkosi: keyboards; Sigho Gumede: bass, electric; Peter Mureke: drums.

Additional Instrumentation

Jabu Nkosi: organ, piano.

Album information

Title: Deeper Roots | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: We Are Busy Bodies

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