The Dedication Orchestra
The South African jazz group the Brotherhood of Breath was founded after the dissolution of the musically and culturally groundbreaking Blue Notes in the 1960s. Like the Blue Notes, the Brotherhood of Breath boasted a multiracial lineup that challenged repressive South African apartheid laws. But to declare that fact as the two groups' only lasting legacy is to do them a disservice, for both the Blue Notes and Brotherhood of Breath were capable of composing and performing complex, challenging, inspirational, and engaging jazz music that blended free jazz with post-bop, big band, and South African jazz influences.
The eclectic mix of styles has also prompted some jazz aficionados to classify the Brotherhood of Breath as jazz-rock fusion, and to place the group as a precursor to the acid jazz style. Other critics have labeled the band avant-garde and experimental, noting its affinities with the music of Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, and Albert Ayler.
The linchpin of the Blue Notes and the Brotherhood of Breath was pianist Chris McGregor, who brought the initial Blue Notes together in 1960 and formed the Brotherhood of Breath in 1969. Born in 1936 in Umtata, South Africa, McGregor studied classical piano music but was more influenced by the music he heard in his father's Church of Scotland mission and by the free-jazz explorations of pianist Cecil Taylor. In 1962, he formed a jazz group to perform at the Johannesburg Jazz Festival, recruiting musicians with whom he would continue to play with in the future.