February 19, 2012

Hugh Masekela | Jabulani

ARTIST:  Hugh Masekela 
TITLE:  Jabulani 
LABEL:  Listen2 / Razor & Tie 
REVIEW:  Hugh Masekela is one of the legends of South African music.  He helped pioneer the township jazz sound along with Dollar Brand and Kippie Moeketsi in the Jazz Epistles; he’s the first African artist to make it to #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 (“Grazing In The Grass,” 1968); his trumpet playing has backed up everyone from Miriam Makeba (his ex-wife) to the Byrds to Paul Simon to Herb Alpert.  Now in his seventh decade as a professional musician, Hugh has made one of his finest records ever with Jabulani. The inspiration for the session comes from the days-long township wedding celebrations of his youth.  Hugh’s combo swings each of these old tunes (some traditionals, some classics) in the uniquely soulful, tuneful manner of South African township jazz.  Masekela is in fine form on flugelhorn and lead vocals, and he’s complemented by singers Gugu Shezi (tracks 3 and 4) and Tshepo Tshola (6) and by a fabulous background-vocal chorus.  South African township jazz is, in my estimation, one of Africa’s greatest contributions to the music of the world.  You just don’t get to hear much of it these days – here’s one of its acknowledged masters turning back the clock to give a vintage performance.  Bravo, Bra Hugh! 
TOP TRACKS:    3    5    6
ALSO RECOMMENDED:   1    2    8    9    10

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