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

BLUE NOTES (1964) From left to right: Dudu Pukwana, Monty Weber, Chris McGregor, Mongezi Feza

...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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  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. New link:

      BLUE NOTES - Blue Notes For Mongezi (1976)

  2. Almost speechless and even a bit tearful Vitko. This was an early jazz purchse for, on vinyl in the 70s. I had heard some Dudu Pukwana on BBC Radio 3 which knocked me sideways and the found this in a record shop when I was living in England.

    As the review says, this almost doubles the vinyl's running time. This was one of the records that set me off listening to more adventurous sounds - it's a joy to have the complete session.

  3. A heartbreaking masterpiece. Thank you thank you thank you.

  4. One of those rare occasions when i already have a record posted here. Needless to say, an amazing record.

  5. Awww, this is not up anymore. Too bad!

  6. I just found your blog,amazing stuff,i'm just downloading a LOT of stuff,do you have this cd in flac?,i can't get enough of the blue notes!

  7. Thank you! I have this on vinyl from first release but it got very scratched. I saw Mongezi Feza play with Dudu Pukwana and Spear at the Cider Press Centre, Dartington, Devon in 1971 I think it was. I was young but they blew me away! I followed Dudu and Co after that, and saw him at the 100 club a number of times. Great music.

  8. Vitko, Thank you. Have this on vinyl but the updated expanded cd version is amazing. Any chance you have any of the other parts of this Ogun box? Blue Notes stuff is hard to come by unfortunately!! Even this box set is pretty scarce and seems to now be OOP.


    1. Hi jeff,
      I have all of the Blue Notes published in Ogun Records.

      Soon on this blog:
      "Blue Notes For Johnny"
      "Blue Notes In Concert"


  9. Gracias amigo, es una maravillosa adquisicion tener estos dos discos.

  10. Damn, I missed this. If there is any chance of re-uploading, you'd make an old(ish) man very happy. Thanks for a great blog.