Thursday, January 23, 2014
BLUE NOTES – Blue Notes For Mongezi (1976 / 2CD-2008)
Label: Ogun – OGCD 025/026
Format: 2 × CD, Album; Country: UK - Released:2008
Style: Free Jazz, Free Improvisation
Recorded on 23 December 1975 in a rehearsal room in London.
It is the spontaneous tribute of four musicians who had assembled in London for the Memorial Service for their friend.
Producer – Chris McGregor, Keith Beal
Reissue Producer – Hazel Miller
Remastered By – Martin Davidson
Photography [Back Cover] – George Hallett, Peter Sinclair
Photography [Front Cover, Mongezi Feza] – George Hallett
...The Ogun box necessarily cuts straight to Blue Notes For Mongezi, and as the redux version now occupies two full CDs this will be the main attraction for many buyers. Although the Blue Notes had not played together as the Blue Notes for some years, they nevertheless reunited at Feza’s memorial service and without saying much of anything went straight to a rehearsal room directly afterwards, set up their instruments, and played and played and sang and played for something like three and a half hours without a break. Due to the limitations of vinyl, the original double album was necessarily a set of highlights but still made for one of the most harrowing listening experiences I can recall; the passion, the grief, the words, above all Johnny Dyani’s words, seemed almost too painful for public consumption, but as an act of catharsis and reconciliation it was surely needed, and over the course of its four sides the music did seem to reach a point of acknowledgement and resolution.
Over two CDs, however, the playing time has effectively doubled in length, and we now have the complete record, or as complete a record as we’re going to get, of everything that was played and taped on that day; according to engineer Keith Beal, the musicians started playing practically the moment they came into the room, while the recording equipment was still being set up, and there is an abrupt but small break in the music between the two CDs which marked the point where the tape reels had to be changed, but otherwise the performance is complete.
The completeness also alters the listener’s perspective on the music radically, such that one is effectively listening to a new extended piece of music altogether; the grief is immediately apparent as the music fades in, Dudu’s alto squealing, Dyani’s bowed bass scribbling, McGregor’s piano an abstracted ghost on the far left, Moholo’s drums busy but strangely subdued. The pace is necessarily slower and more organic than on the original vinyl release but the overall picture is critically more detailed; we have Dyani’s urgent ostinatos and parched Xhosa (and occasional English) cries but they are now set in a more complex landscape where there are long periods of straight swing or Coltrane-type waltz passages. In the “ Second Movement ” Dyani’s bass solo remains poignant to the point of unlistenable (in terms of unalloyed, bereaved sorrow), though clearly influenced by Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra recording of “ Song For Che ” with rattling percussion from all direction accompanying his playing and Dudu’s solemn alto succeeding him in the foreground with an eventual martial feel of defiance in the group’s rhythm. This is then succeeded by Dyani and Dudu’s vocal harmonies and chants, again accompanied only by free percussion.
From this point of prayer-filled stasis, the music gradually picks up again on the third CD; Pukwana picks up on “ Yellow Rose Of Texas ” from nowhere in particular (though in the English vocal sections I notice lots of “ We love you ” s but also Dyani’s ominous “ We know your enemies ” ) and turns that too into an ANC-worthy anthem of hopeful triumph, while the band as a whole suddenly swing through a whole series of Blue Notes/Brotherhood standards, most notably a spirited run through Feza’s “ Sonia ” with a terrific McGregor/Dyani duet section. Ultimately we arrive, after a lengthy and patient set-up, at the lilting major key tribute to Feza which concluded the original album, where the Blue Notes appear to will their own rebirth and “ live ” once more. Blue Notes For Mongezi is their “ Everything’s Gone Green ” and just as devastating a listening experience...
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