One night, three CDs

Peter Makurube

The release of three jazz albums at the same time? It’s enough to overwhelm the ancestors of South African jazz – a night of their dreams!

June 5 sees the launch at Mega Music Warehouse of three new CDs by artists who’ve stayed in the country, who neither emigrated nor sold out to pop. Most well known is saxophonist McCoy Mrubata who will showcase tunes from his latest album, Phosa Ngasemva.

It took Mrubata three years, from his arrival in Johannesburg, before the production of his first album, Firebird, in 1989. Eight years later he signed a deal with his current producers Sheer Sound, giving rise to his next album appropriately called Tears Of Joy. That was in 1997, and the album is still selling steadily. It was the appearance on that CD of singer Ringo Madlingozi, doing Tete Mbambisa’s Umsenge, that catapulted the album to the top. Ringo is also featured on the new album on the track Abukho, a number he will be performing on Saturday.

The two have a long-standing friendship dating back to boyhood. So close in fact that when Ringo formed his earlier band, Peto, Mrubata’s brother Mzwandile was there on guitar. These days Mrubata combines the singer’s fine understanding of Xhosa rhythms with his equally astute knowledge of jazz.

The launch ties in with Mrubata’s 40th birthday and, with his 11-piece band, it’s bound to be a party of note.

Unofficial Language is the second group to launch at Saturday’s event. Their debut album, Primal Steps, was released a couple of years ago to critical acclaim, and then they somewhat disappeared from the scene. Luckily though the folks at Sheer Sound heard the recording, purchased the rights and are now re-releasing it. A brilliant album, it gathered dust on the shelf due to lack of marketing.

The three members of the band with the unusual name are all regarded and known: bassist Pete Sklair, pianist Paul Hanmer and drummer Ian Herman.

Sklair comes from a musical family and was featured on the Tananas recording Wide Ensemble. Herman, once a member of The Genuines, was a co-founder of Tananas, while Hanmer, known for his big seller Trains to Taung, is one of the finest composers around.

The third artist to launch is Feya Faku, the hot new trumpet kid who’s got the critics raving. Homage, his debut CD, is a fine effort from one regarded as the best find since Blue Notes trumpeter Mongezi Feza. Incidentally, Feza was born in Port Elizabeth, Faku’s hometown.

Faku studied at Natal University where he met veteran trumpeter Johnny Mekoa. The two of them were piping hot in the university big band. He also caught the eye of Abdullah Ibrahim with whom he toured before appearing on Ibrahim’s 1998 recording Township One More Time. Others who’ve clamoured after Faku’s talent include some big names from Europe as well as local heroes Mankunku Ngozi, Zim Ngqawana, Steve Dyer, and Bheki Mseleku.

The ambitious organisers are hoping to pack all three performances into this one night event. For those who tire easily, though, a trip to your local music shop will remedy the situation.

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