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AFRICA STRAIGHT AHEAD
(SUDÁFRICA, 2004) @
Africa Straight Ahead Spotlights the Best of the South African Jazz Scene
Featuring Darius Brubeck and Afro Cool Concept, Hotep Idris Galeta, Paul Hanmer, Moses Khumalo, McCoy Mrubata, Bheki Mseleku, Andy Narell, Zim Ngqawana, The Sheer All Stars, Voice and Marcus Wyat
Heads Up International continues to celebrate cultural exchange between jazz musicians in Africa and their American counterparts with the worldwide release on February 24, 2004, of Africa Straight Ahead (HUCD 3079). This latest recording in the acclaimed Heads Up Africa series spotlights some of South Africa's leading jazz musicians playing their own compositions.
Compiled under the guidance of Heads Up President Dave Love Africa Straight Ahead presents a cross-section of artists who play and write in a range of straight ahead jazz styles. Little known except in their own country, Hotep Idris Galeta, Paul Hanmer, Moses Khumalo, McCoy Mrubata, Bheki Mseleku, Zim Ngqawana, The Sheer All Stars, Voice and Marcus Wyatt fill Africa Straight Ahead with fresh sounds you won't find anywhere else on earth. They are joined by Americans Andy Narell and Darius Brubeck (son of jazz legend Dave Brubeck). Cover art features an African illustration by Frank Morrison.
Africa Straight Ahead is the natural sequel to last year's long anticipated Smooth Africa II: Exploring the Soul (HUCD 3077) and Smooth Africa (HUCD 3054), released in 2000. Both projects featured some of Southern Africa's finest vocalists and instrumentalists (Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Jimmy Dludlu, Allou April, Shaluza Max, Oliver Mtukudzi and Gloria Bosman), along with contemporary jazz icons from America (Spyro Gyra and Joe McBride). Also available as part of the Heads Up Africa series are Andy Narell's two-disc set, Live In South Africa (HUCD 3060), and legendary Ladysmith Black Mambazo's Wenyukela (HUCD 3083), released in January 2004.
A visit to South Africa in 1998 with keyboardist McBride (the first American to ever perform at Cape Town's annual Jazzathon) provided Love with the initial inspiration to debut his Heads Up Africa series. "There's a true magic in the country, " he says. "The first time I visited there, I simply fell in love with the place. Eventually the musicians in South Africa drew me under their spell. Their playing is so sincere and heartfelt, I felt it necessary to document their work and bring it to the world stage."
The twelve selections on Africa Straight Ahead are as varied and exciting as the performers. Trumpeter Marcus Wyatt opens the album with his shimmering, hard bop-flavored "Owed to Bishop, " followed by pianist Paul Hanmer's driving "Naivasha (The Moon in a Bowl)." Tenor saxophonist Moses Khumalo, winner of the 2003 South African Music Awards (SAMA), delivers the intoxicatingly rhythmic "Celebrate Mzansi, " while woodwind master Zim Ngqawana plays flute with unhurried eloquence on his own "Beautiful Love (It's All About Love)."
The Sheer All Stars, a working band that incorporates some of South Africa's finest jazz musicians from the Sheer Sound label, make two appearances: on guitarist Errol Dyers "Langrey" and pianist Wessel Van Rensburg's "Lovers on Empty Corners." Africa Straight Ahead also features contributions from a pair of American artists: Steel pan master Andy Narell, a favorite in South Africa, performs "Dee Mwa Wee, " while pianist Darius Brubeck, a longtime resident and educator in Durban, offers "Tugela Rail, " played by his band Afro Cool Concept.
Pianist Andile Yenana's laid-back composition "Sweet Anathi, " performed by the jazz quintet Voice, and saxman Mrubata's rhythmic "Amasabekwelanggeni" are both reminiscent of and different from traditional jazz. Africa Straight Ahead concludes with multi-instrumentalist Bheki Mseleku's "Imbali" and world renowned pianist Hotep Idris Galeta's "Shawn's Uhadi Samba."
"My goal is to build the reputation of these performers so that they can come to America and perform for people here, " says Love. "These artists have been through so much, but their music is full of beauty and joy."
This innovative collection combines straight-ahead jazz with the essence of Africa. Using the sounds of hard bop, swing and soul as a springboard into modern creativity, Africa Straight Ahead brings jazz solidly into the 21st century and is sure to resonate with jazz fans, as well as world music aficionados.