Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

255

The African Jazz Pioneers: The Best Of

Jack Bowers By

Sign in to view read count
It's always fascinating to hear how musicians from other countries have taken "America's music" - Jazz - and adapted it to suit their ethnic and cultural heritage. This is especially true when one considers the music of Africa, one of the primary wellsprings of Jazz's syncopated rhythmic patterns. Rhythm is what African ensembles are about, an observation that is emphatically underscored by the African Jazz Pioneers (from the Republic of South Africa) on this collection of some of their best work released by Gallo Records. The music, we are told in the liner notes, "fuses kwela, mbaqanga, marabi and Jazz to form a sound that is unique and trademark by nature." No argument here. Marabi, one of the earliest uniquely South African musical forms, arose in the black townships in the '20s. It features a sort of distilled blues harmony - three chords (like the ones in the standard American 12-bar form) repeated in short units. From marabi came kwela, also a music of the urban ghettoes, which incorporates elements of swing and expanded instrumentation (most often including a pennywhistle). Mbaqanga, which evolved in the '60s, took these concepts to a higher level by introducing more sophisticated textures and several of the newer innovations of the evolving Afro-American Jazz tradition, such as electric instruments. The outcome of this amalgamation is music that is not only rhythmically strong but also quite conventional, never departing from established melodic or harmonic motifs and using snippets of swing, ragtime, trad Jazz, dance music and a trace of bop as its essential building blocks. Once the rhythmic groundwork has been laid and the cadence established, it remains unalterably in place to provide a sturdy backdrop for vocals and improvised passages, which flow naturally from the dominant theme. This doesn't mean that the music lacks variety; far from it. Each of these numbers is a unique composition that may bear a superficial relationship to the others but imparts its own measure of freshness and charm.

Instrumentation varies too with the Jazz Pioneers using brass, reeds, guitars, a marimba, vocalists (alone or in tandem) and assorted African instruments to amplify the music's percussive substructure. The Pioneers, more than four decades old in one form or another, have breached almost insuperable racial barricades to entertain audiences all over the world with their energetic brand of "township music," calling to mind a more contemporary version of America's venerable Preservation Hall Jazz Band. I am unable to affirm that this album represents "the best" of what the ensemble has to offer, but can say that it is overflowing with bright, good-natured music that is a pleasure to hear.


Title: The Best Of | Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: Gallo Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Album Reviews
Read more articles
 

Afrika Vukani

Gallo Records
2002

buy
 

The Best Of

Gallo Records
2002

buy

Shop

Start your shopping here and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read Cuando Sea Necesario Album Reviews
Cuando Sea Necesario
By Dan McClenaghan
March 22, 2019
Read West 60th Album Reviews
West 60th
By Peter Hoetjes
March 22, 2019
Read In Between the Tumbling a Stillness Album Reviews
In Between the Tumbling a Stillness
By Mark Corroto
March 22, 2019
Read Arirang Fantasy Album Reviews
Arirang Fantasy
By John Sharpe
March 22, 2019
Read The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul Album Reviews
The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul
By Mike Jurkovic
March 22, 2019
Read Octopus Album Reviews
Octopus
By Jack Bowers
March 21, 2019
Read Pinch Point Album Reviews
Pinch Point
By Mark Corroto
March 21, 2019