Thursday, April 23, 2009


Today I'll continue my belated celebration of Jazz Appreciation Month with a look at South African trumpet/flugelhorn virtuoso Hugh Masekela's latest album, Phola. The album, whose title is a South African term meaning to get well, to heal, to relax and chill, is his 35ish release, and features nine original tracks that allow his work with his horn to sparkle as well as him to sing throughout.

For those of you not familiar with Hugh, he was born in South Africa, and actually just turned 70 earlier this month. The majority of those years have involved him polishing and evolving his style, working both in other people's bands as well as forming his own around himself. While listing his involvements would be exhaustive, some of the highlights which might be familiar to most listeners include working with Fela Kuti in the 70's and on Paul Simon's Graceland tour in the 80's. What makes Hugh so sought after is his ability to integrate his native African music with so many other styles and genres without losing his identity, and in fact he is considered one of the innovators in the world fusion style. Just listening to this album will reveal tones of jazz, R&B, Afro-beat, and township music

Unfortunately because of apartheid, he was exiled from his own country for many years, and his opposition of it is apparent in much of his material. In fact, for a short time he was married to another exiled musician who was a vocal opponent of the apartheid regime, Miriam Makeba. Although much of his material is politically charged, there's still an upbeat cheerfulness that comes through which is hard to resist.

and an older one:

Visit his label Times Square Records.

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