Jazz / Free Jazz
Legendary South African & British jazz label started in 1973 by bassist Harry Miller, producer Hazel Miller and sound engineer Keith Beal. Still active.
OTOROKU is proud to present the first vinyl reissue of Blue Notes for Johnny - a defining statement by one of the greatest ensembles in the history of jazz. Recorded in mid-1987 by Blue Notes - then reduced to the trio of Dudu Pukwana on alto sax, Louis Moholo-Moholo on drums and Chris McGregor on piano - it encounters the band 25 years after their founding embarking on an inward meditation through collective music making dedicated to Johnny Dyani, their former bandmate and friend.
Blue Notes were founded in Cape Town in 1962, and stand among the most important ensembles in the history of jazz. Artistically brilliant and groundbreaking - gathering, within a few short years, a devoted following that included Don Cherry, Steve Lacy, Abdullah Ibrahim, Dexter Gordon, Kenny Drew, Keith Tippett, Evan Parker, John Stevens and numerous others - they were also the first widely visible multiracial band in South Africa.
As a mixed race band under apartheid, this group of friends and like-minded artists - Chris McGregor, Mongezi Feza, Dudu Pukwana, Nikele Moyake, Johnny Dyani and Louis Moholo-Moholo - existed within a context that viewed their mere existence as a dangerous and subversive act. In 1964 they joined an exodus of musicians leaving for Europe and eventually settled in London the following year. Sadly, not long after arriving and facing continued economic peril, the group buckled. Johnny Dyani left to join Don Cherry’s band. Moholo-Moholo and Dyani followed suit and joined Steve Lacy on tour, and the remaining members morphed into a number of ensembles that eventually grew to become Chris McGregor's Brotherhood Of Breath.
Following the death of Mongezi Feza in 1975 the remaining members of the group had come back together to record Blue Notes For Mongezi, reigniting a sporadic period of activity over the coming years. Following the untimely passing of Johnny Dyani in late 1986, the last three members of the original line-up - McGregor, Pukwana and Moholo-Moholo - reformed to pay tribute to yet another of their fallen brothers.
Blue Notes for Johnny, the group’s second musical memorial to a band member, incorporates a considerably broader range of touchstone and practices than its predecessor, nodding toward the band’s foundations in be-bop and post-bop without abandoning where they had journeyed along the way. Internalising equal elements of hard-bop, modalism, and free improvisation, it is a startling creative statement, imbued with a tension that renders an equally radical and sophisticated challenge; a furious tide - slow in pace and it slow to reveal itself - masquerading in gentler forms.
A celebration and a memorial. Joyous and tragic. A real time resurrection of personal experience, Blue Notes for Johnny dodges, dances, and transforms across its two sides, refusing to be nailed down. As the trio pushes against each other, bristling tonal and rhythmic collisions leave the impression that something is bound to explode, without ever fully letting go.
Blue Notes for Johnny’s memorialisation is unwittingly doubled by capturing the final time that the Blue Notes would come together in the studio. Both Dudu Pukwana and Chris McGregor would pass away three years later in 1990, leaving Moholo-Moholo - who continues to carve a groundbreaking trajectory across the world of jazz - as the last surviving member. The album remains as a journey between an imaged future and the beginning of it all. Six friends meeting and communing through sound. Six friends who had triumphed against the odds, becoming some of the greatest creative voices of their generation. Six friends who were five, then four, and then three, before they were done. Friends who never failed, in whatever form, to come together and play. It is a story begun 60 years ago that remains just as prescient today.
DUDU PUKWANA / alto sax
CHRIS McGREGOR / piano
LOUIS MOHOLO / drums
This 2022 re-issue has been made with permission and in association with Ogun records. Transferred from the original masters and featuring an exact reproduction of the original artwork. Remastered by Giuseppe Ielasi. All music by the Blue Notes. All music published by Ogun Publishing Co. Cover design by Ogun.
Blue Notes – Blue Notes for Johnny
Singer Francine Luce (Viva La Black, Moholo Unit) featuring Evan Parker, Keith Tippett, Claude Deppa, Paul Rutherford, Paul Rogers and Moholo-Moholo.
Recorded and edited by Steve Lowe with Ray Matthews at Gateway Studio, Kingston, September 1996. Location recordings of insects, birds and sea made in Martinique by Francine Luce and Daniel Duclos. Mastered by Matt Colton at Porkey's. Produced by Steve Beresford.
Francine Luce – Bo Kay La Vi-A
"From the Miller box of tapes and other archives, this music has not previously been released, taken from live performances of different Ispingo formats in the UK and Europe. The music sounds a vibrants as when played in 1973 and 1976, so many memories." - Hazel Miller.
"This previously unreleased material comes from 1970s Miller-led gigs in Britain and France, featuring two superb free-jazz pianists (the late Chris McGregor on the first; Britain's Keith Tippett on the second), legendary alto saxophonist Mike Osborne, and drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo. Gripping episodes abound, such as the sound of Osborne's vinegary, Ornette-meets-Ayler sax soaring over Miller's whipping bass figures on the gruffly tender Bloomfield, McGregor's fills on the riffy Quandry (made fortuitously more pungent by the off-pitch piano), and two versions of the springy, Mingus-like Touch Hungry – the first with a percussively Monkish McGregor, the second with some fine, Miles-like trumpet from Marc Charig. Those who remember Miller's heyday will love this rough-hewn document, as will fans of the South Africa-celebrating Townships Comets and Moholo-Moholo's current work." - John Fordham
Harry Miller / bass
Louis Moholo-Moholo / drums
Keith Tippett / piano
Mike Osborne / alto saxophone
Mark Charig / trumpet
Malcolm Griffiths / trombone
Tracks 1 - 3 recorded in London, England on June 4th 1973. Tracks 4 - 7 recorded at Chateauvallon Jazz Festival, France, July 7th, 1976.
Different Times, Different Places – Harry Miller
"Pianist Stan Tracey last played with the South African master drummer Louis Moholo 30 years ago, when Moholo was an exile from apartheid. Now he has returned to South Africa to live, so the recent scarcity of this dramatic performer's UK work gives this 2004 London improvisational session an extra buzz.
Three decades on, Moholo remains the formidable free-improviser he always was - but Tracey has largely returned to the structured, song-shaped swinging music he began with. The gig, therefore, might have been a meeting of well-intentioned old associates who had become musical strangers. Tracey even implies an unease about it in his notes to the set, but he records that when they sat down to play - with no prior discussion - the music just took care of itself."
Louis Moholo Moholo / drums
Stan Tracy / piano
Recorded at Gatewary Studios on 23rd October, 2004. Produced by Evan Parker. Artwork by John Eaves RWA.
Louis Moholo-Moholo – Khumbula
OTOROKU is proud to present the first vinyl reissue of Blue Notes for Mongezi, one of the most passionate celebrations of a life in music ever laid to tape. Recorded in late 1975 by Blue Notes, then reduced to a quartet - Dudu Pukwana on alto sax, whistle, percussion, and vocals; Johnny Dyani on bass, bells, and vocals; Louis Moholo-Moholo on drums, percussion, and vocals; and Chris McGregor on piano, and percussion - and issued the following year by Ogun, the album is a kairos; the first commercial release by one of free jazz’s seminal ensembles, captured them 13 years after their founding - at the height of their powers - delivering an explosive dirge dedicated to Mongezi Feza, their former bandmate and friend.
Blue Notes were founded in Cape Town in 1962 and stand among the most important ensembles in the history of jazz. Artistically brilliant and groundbreaking - gathering, within a few short years, a devoted following that included Don Cherry, Steve Lacy, Abdullah Ibrahim, Dexter Gordon, Kenny Drew,Keith Tippett, Evan Parker, John Stevens, and numerous others - they were also the first widely visible multiracial band in South Africa.
As a mixed race band under South African apartheid; this group of friends and like-minded artists - Chris McGregor, Mongezi Feza, Dudu Pukwana, Nikele Moyake, Johnny Dyani and Louis Moholo-Moholo - existed within a context that viewed their mere existence as a dangerous and subversive act. In 1964, as the pressure mounted, they joined an exodus of musicians leaving for Europe, eventually settling in London during the following year. Sadly, not long after arriving and facing continued economic peril, the group buckled. Johnny Dyani left to join Don Cherry’s band. Moholo-Moholo and Dyani followed suit and joined Steve Lacy on tour, and the remaining members morphed into a number of ensembles that eventually grew to become Chris McGregor's Brotherhood Of Breath.
In late 1975 however, Mongezi Feza - in the midst of a fruitful period collaborating with Dudu Pukwana, Johnny Dyani, and Okay Temiz - suddenly passed away at the age of thirty from pneumonia. Nine days later, on the 23rd December, following the memorial service to their friend, Pukwana, Dyani, McGregor, and Moholo-Moholo gathered in a rehearsal room in London and set out to play. Fittingly, no discussion took place before or during the session. The music was left to say it all.
The resulting double LP coalesced into four long-form movements that occupy a side each, collectively unleashing an onslaught of free jazz fire, fluidly covering a remarkable range of moods and tactical approaches across it’s length. For anyone encountering the Blue Notes for the first time, the album must have felt like being blindsided by a brick, adding a profound sense of credence to Moholo-Moholo’s belief that free improvisation was intrinsically linked to the Pan-African temperament. In the band’s hands, the idiom sounds like nothing else and exactly as it should.
A frenzied funeral dirge, a cry, and catharsis, the record rises and falls between playful and joyous movements of deconstructed song, rhythmic and vocal tribalism, and churning, instrumental free expression. It indicates not only a possible future for musical expression - as all truly avant-garde music does - but also the very roots of music itself, illuminating, through abstraction, the far-flung, ancient roots currently carried by the New Orleans “first line” march to the grave. It is a decidedly African vision of free jazz, coalescing as a collective expression of celebration and loss on a cold London day. It is a masterpiece unfolding in real time - out on a limb and laden with risk - created by four of the most talented voices the idiom has known.
DUDU PUKWANA / alto sax, whistle, percussion, vocals
CHRIS McGREGOR / piano, percussion
LOUIS MOHOLO / drums, percussion, vocals
JOHNNY DYANI / bass, bell, vocals and most of the words
This 2022 re-issue has been made with permission and in association with Ogun records. Transferred from the original masters and featuring an exact reproduction of the original artwork. Remastered by Giuseppe Ilelasi and packaged in a high gloss sleeve.
All music by the Blue Notes. All music published by Ogun Publishing Co. Cover design by Ogun. Front cover photograph and photograph of Mongezi Feza by Geroge Hallet. Blue Notes photograph by Jurg. Back cover photograph by George Hallet and Peter Sinclair. Xhosa translation by Z. Pallo Jordan. Produced by Keith Beal and Chris McGregor. Ogun Recording would like to thank John Martyn for his assistance in making this album possible. Reissue for OTOROKU produced by Abby Thomas. Transferred from the original masters by Shaun Crook at Lockdown Studios. Remastered by Giuseppe Ielasi. Layout for reissue by Maja Larrson.
Blue Notes for Mongezi – Blue Notes
Otoroku is extremely proud to present the first vinyl reissue of one of the most legendary free jazz records ever produced. Originally released in 1978 on Ogun recordings, Louis Moholo Octet’s Spirits Rejoice! is a high achievement in the movement of the era as it soars beyond oppression with a raucous and spiritually uplifting surge of movement and melody
Featuring Harry Miller, Johnny Dyani, Keith Tippett, Evan Parker, Nick Evans, Radu Malfatti and Kenny Wheeler, this is former Blue Note artist Louis Moholo’s first album under his own name and is a classic example of the cross-pollination between South African and British players. Mongezi Feza’s ‘You Ain’t Gonna Know Me ‘Cos You Think You Know Me’ alone is enough to make your life a better place.
From Matthew Wright’s new liner notes:
The South African melodies, now so familiar, were wholeheartedly taken on board by the individual musicians, their unity of purpose mirroring the belief in the strength of the collective. Stunning solos, often close to the edge, feature throughout – Evan Parker and Keith Tippett on “Shine Wherever You Are”; the contrasting trombone styles of Nick Evans and Radu Malfatti on “You Ain’t Gonna Know Me...”; the octet sounding like a full big band; and behind them, the relentlessly rhythmic urgency of the piano, bass and drums. Add to this Kenny Wheeler’s moving and all-encompassing trumpet on the elegiac “Amaxesha Osizi” and the joyous flamboyancy of “Wedding Hymn” with Parker’s relatively straight-ahead tenor and Tippett’s dextrous piano solo over a bed of riffing horns, (fast) walking bass lines and a supreme sense of swing. Louis’ early hero, Big Sid Catlett, would have loved it!
This 2019 re-issue has been made with permission and in association with Ogun records. Features an exact reproduction of the original artwork and liner notes along with new liner notes from Matthew Wright. Remastered by Giuseppe IIelasi and packaged in a high gloss sleeve this is the definitive release of one of the absolute free jazz classics of the 20th Century.
Edition of 1000 copies.
Spirits Rejoice! – Louis Moholo Octet
"One of the most notable things Parker and Stevens have in common is their way of absorbing and transforming influences from jazz. Stevens has often paid tribute to the music of people such as Eddie Blackwell and Ornette Coleman. Parker has his roots in the records of Coltrane, Dolphy and others. They have drawn on other musics to create a new language which is very personal and not in any way parasitic upon its resources. Other contexts will find Parker playing tenor saxophone and Stevens a conventional kit. In the duo, Parker plays only soprano and Stevens' kit is diminutive - no bass drum, two hi-hats, a childs snare. Evendently they have mapped out a very special area - extremely concentrated and intimate."
John Stevens / percussion, cornet
Evan Parker / soprano saxophone
Front cover illustration by Geoffrey Rigden, 1986. Corner to Corner recorded direct to U-Matic master using Schoeps and Neumann microphones on June 8 1993 at Angel Studio, London, by Kirsten Cowie. Longest Night recorded on the longest night of 1976 at Riverside Studios, London, by Adam Skeaping.
Corner to Corner and The Longest Night – Evan Parker, John Stevens
"Louis Moholo-Moholo, son of the soil, has embarked on this musicial journey with two of South Afrika's treasures - pianists Mervyn Africa and Pule Pheto. The third pianist is is old friend and favourite, Keith Tippett. Louis's warm, vibrant and marvellous sounds celebrrate the ememory of his long departed brothers: Mogezi Feza, Johnny Dyani, Chris McGregor, Dud Pukwana, Harry Miller; and his beloved mother Dorah Lulu Moholo." - Mpumi Moholo.
"Take a leaf from our past and blend it with fresh leaves from our modern day trees, so that tomorrow when our children hear our music they will in turn take a leaf from their past (which I hope will be us) thus empowering themselves with new leaves to carry on the tradition handed down to us."
Louis Moholo Moholo / drums
Mervyn Africa / piano
Pule Pheto / piano
Keith Tippett / piano
Recorded September 1995 at Gateway Studios, Kingston, by Steve Lowe. Mixed and mastered by Martin Davidson.
Mpumi – Louis Moholo Moholo
"The idea behind the original two LPs which form this re-issue was to present collective example of certain areas where I function mostly as an improvising musician. My intention with The Joy of Paranoia was to create an album which presented my saxophone improvisations within several different situations. The tracks with Michael Garrick, though based upon familiar compositions, were played very openly. The duets with Veryan Weston were spontaneous. Joy of Paranoia Waltz is based upon a simple riff with four saxophone overdubs. The Wakefield Capers, with the exception of some established rhythmic settings by the members of Paws for Thought, is improvised."
--- Lol Coxhill / soprano sax
Michael Garrick / electric piano
Dave Green / bass
John Mitchell / percussion
Paul Mitchell-Davidson / bass guitar
Ken Shaw / electric guitar
Veryan Weston / piano
Colin Wood / cello
Richard Wright / span guitar (track 1)
Recorded at Bretton Hall, Wakefield; Hatfield Music Centre; Mekon Studios, London; Fairway Tavern, Panshanger; Seven Dials, London. Tracks 1-5 originally released in 1978 on LP as OG 525, The Joy of Paranoia. Tracks 6-7 originally released in 1977 as OG510, Diverse.
Lol Coxhill – Coxhill on Ogun
Ogun marks their 40th anniversary by releasing this superb album from drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo's Unit as an octet including Alexander Hawkins on piano, John Edwards on bass, and Jason Yarde on saxes, performing a heartfelt tribute to The Blue Notes live in Italy.
"Wild but still songlike collective thrashes swell out of catchy hooks (as on the title track); the street-brass sound of the old Brotherhood of Breath big band is echoed in struts like Irmite Is Right; the sonorous chant Dikelelu has a rumbling, Coltranesque undertow; and bassist John Edwards' crunching basswalk under Hawkins' zig-zagging piano solo on Sonke is awesome. There are protracted encores and namechecks at the end, but they all add to the sensation of being present at a gig you'd remember for a long time." - John Fordham
Alexander Hawkins / piano
John Edwards / bass
Louis Moholo-Moholo / drums
Jason Yarde / saxphones
Ntshuks Bonga / saxophones
Henry Lowther / trumpet
Alan Tomlinson / trombone
Francine Luce / vocals
Recorded live in Milan, 2012 by Gianni Grassilli. Cover by Naiel Ibarrola.
Louis Moholo-Moholo Unit – For The Blue Notes
"With the Octet having whetted his appetite for band leading, Louis Moholo-Moholo went on to develop an array of ensemble projects, the longest serving of which he dubbed Viva La Black. It was with Viva that Louis toured South Africa in 1993, and for Louis and some of his compatriots in Viva the tour was nothing less than a personal triumph, a return home after three years spent in exile. Why these studio sessions rested in the vaults for so long remains a mystery. It was a slightly changed band that Louis assembled in 1995: the fresh ingredient that would move Viva into the darker, earthier grooves of Bra Louis - Bra Tebs was singer Francine Luce, originally from Martinique and now one of the vocal treasures of the London improv scene. But here they are, at last." - David Ilic
"Full of striking themes and strong improvisation, and continues a tradition that goes back a long way in South African jazz: stripped-down, hymnal themes repeated like mantras, gradually intensifying into free-jam furores, or giving way to racing swing. Some of the songs are as quirkily gentle as a Norma Winstone record, some like Annie Ross in a free-improv band - and though Francine Luce's frantic variations might not work for everybody, she's sonorous and soulful on the brooding traditional song Utshaka, and on a defiant Motherless Child."
Louis Moholo – Bra Luis - Bra Tebs
Recorded live at OTO in April 2017 includes long time collaborators Jason Yarde on saxophones, John Edwards on bass, and Alexander Hawkins on piano, with the addition of saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings.
"Another crowded night, atmosphere charged, some new faces, lots familiar...From the first note the music spirals into the spirit world, summoned, a dance of beauty and life and death., and some of our friends are crying. They are strong and crying. We've been here before and it's always a shocking truth. This music is very real."
"Experience the sensation of being blown away by the waves of emotion, whether overwhelmingly ecstatic or exquisitely refined. And most of all, perhaps, listen to the Louis Moholo Moholo Quartet to understand how, in this music, the individual and the collective can simultaneously attain equal importance: a most elevated state of being." – Richard Williams, The Blue Moment, review of Louis Moholo Moholo Quartet at Cafe OTO."
Uplift The People – Louis Moholo-Moholo's Five Blokes
First studio recording of Louis’s latest group creating great, joyous, South African influenced music.
"From its gamelan-like-opening cut, to its closing peaceful moments, this is world-class improvisation and masterful compositional thinking.
The star of this session is of course the leader who gives his name to the quartet. Louis Moholo-Moholo, a powerful, effusive and sensitive drummer who moved from his native South Africa to Britain in the 1960s and became an important voice in the then burgeoning improvised music scene seems to have lost none of his exquisite verve and can still lay down some mighty flourishes on his kit. He's joined here by three other blokes who are much younger men, but pianist Alexander Hawkins, bassist John Edwards bass and saxophonist Jason Yarde are all up to the task of matching the leader's drive.
The insistent, irrepressible "For the Blue Notes" which starts off the set, alludes to the drummer's legendary band of the 60s. Other historical references include the piece "Tears for Steve Biko," which is part lament, part protest song. The title cut is one solid blockbuster of a tune, with everyone going full throttle. The most loveable thing about this session recorded in November 2013 is that there's a balance of what has often been called "inside" and "outside" playing, as this quartet, with a finely-honed telepathic sense, works as a tight unit, even when each musician is pushing at the limit of cohesion and coherence in some of the wilder moments, of which there are many. But the music can downshift to a lullaby softness, as in 'Something Gentle" and sway gracefully in the waltz-time of "Angel-Nomali."
There's lots to praise here, but just the magic of Moholo's playing, with its inevitable echoes of his phenomenal free jazz style of the 60s makes this a memorable release well worth having.'
John Edwards / bassAlexander Hawkins / pianoJason Yarde / saxophoneLouis Moholo Moholo / drums
4 Blokes – Louis Moholo-Moholo Quartet