260

Harry Miller's Isipingo: Which Way Now

By

Sign in to view read count
Harry Miller's Isipingo: Which Way Now Harry Miller remains one of the unsung heroes of modern improvised music. A white, Jewish South African expatriate, Miller played a pivotal role on the '70s European jazz scene, co-founding the Ogun label and promoting the documentation and popularization of multicultural, African-inflected improvisation. He was also, however, a brilliant, powerful bassist who bedded a number of classic recordings, as well as a notable, if sparsely recorded, bandleader and composer.

Isipingo was one of Miller's finest bands, and Which Way Now showcases an early incarnation of the ensemble which was previously undocumented on any official release. The group's only other album—Family Affair, recently reissued on Ogun's three-CD Miller boxed set—was recorded two years after this Bremen radio broadcast and featured slightly different personnel. This earlier lineup is loose, tough and somewhat rough around the edges, but it compensates for its coarseness with enthusiasm and sheer combustibility.

Miller's presence directs—but does not dominate—the proceedings. The leader's compositions are open-ended and flexible, and, although less memorable than much of the kwela-inspired repertoire of this idiom, certainly fine for blowing. The team of Miller, Keith Tippett and Louis Moholo-Moholo provides a dynamic, responsive pulse, shifting tempos and rhythmic texture with an impressive balance of precision and spontaneity. Mike Osborne and Nick Evans register fine statements, the former molten and declarative, the latter dense but delightfully agile. Particularly remarkable is Mongezi Feza, whose slashing, acidic lines afford the catalyzing presence in the ensemble; here is the cry of South Africa, plangent and weirdly lyrical. It is a rare pleasure to hear the band rippling behind the trumpeter, Miller's voluminous tone shuddering hot into the microphone.

It is largely to the leader's credit that the sounds of Feza and other expatriates are not lost to the ether, captured forever in these recordings, even now surfacing. As Which Way Now shows, however, Miller was far more than merely background noise—he gave the music flight, and he did it with his own wings.


Track Listing: Family Affair; Children at Play; Eli's Song; Which Way Now.

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

Title: Which Way Now | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Cuneiform Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Open Book CD/LP/Track Review Open Book
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: August 17, 2017
Read Stolen Moments CD/LP/Track Review Stolen Moments
by Jack Bowers
Published: August 17, 2017
Read Sonder CD/LP/Track Review Sonder
by Troy Dostert
Published: August 17, 2017
Read Putting Off Death CD/LP/Track Review Putting Off Death
by Glenn Astarita
Published: August 17, 2017
Read Albert Mangelsdorff And His Friends CD/LP/Track Review Albert Mangelsdorff And His Friends
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 16, 2017
Read Heaven On Their Minds CD/LP/Track Review Heaven On Their Minds
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: August 16, 2017
Read "Blue And Lonesome" CD/LP/Track Review Blue And Lonesome
by Karl Ackermann
Published: December 9, 2016
Read "Fierce Silence" CD/LP/Track Review Fierce Silence
by John Sharpe
Published: December 9, 2016
Read "Stolen Moments" CD/LP/Track Review Stolen Moments
by Jack Bowers
Published: August 17, 2017
Read "Relaxin’ With the Miles Davis Quintet" CD/LP/Track Review Relaxin’ With the Miles Davis Quintet
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: July 19, 2017
Read "For Massas" CD/LP/Track Review For Massas
by Daniel Barbiero
Published: June 11, 2017

Sponsor: JANA PROJECT | LEARN MORE  

Support our sponsor

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.