In memory of Johnny Peret

In memory of Johnny Peret
In memory of my friend Johnny Peret, vibist, drummer, accordeonist extraordinaire

Saturday, March 26, 2011



American pianist, John Mehegan toured South Africa in 1959 and recorded these seminal albums (vol. 1 & vol. 2) with most of the horn section of the Jazz Epistles. The line-up included John Mehegan and Chris Joseph on piano, Kippie Moeketsi on alto, Hugh Masekela on trumpet, Jonas Gwangwa on trombone, Claude Shange on bass and Gene Latimore on drums. On the first volume, there is a single track featuring Samson Slingo on mbira with a spoken introduction probably by Mehegan, who also pens the liner notes. According to Jonas Gwangwa, this "was the first LP made by black people in South Africa." (Ansell, p. 98)

Reportedly only 500 copies of the original album were pressed, making it exceptionally hard to find. Teal Records' African Heritage series reissued both volumes in the early 1990s on LP, cassette and CD (TEL 2304, TEC 2304, TELCD 2304, 1991) (TEL 2314, TEC 2314, TELCD 2314, 1992), but these are equally scarce. 

Jonas Gwanga

I bought this double CD about ten years ago at Johannesburg International Airport. There used to be an excellent record shop in the duty free area, carrying a good selection of South African Jazz .  The young shop attendant I talked too was very enthusiastic about jazz and made me listen to a whole bunch of albums.  I had a lot of time waiting for a connecting flight and eventually I left the shop with whole pile of CDs.  And right did I do so because most of them are now OOP. 


JONAS GWANGWA - trombone
RAY SHANGE - penny whistle

Jazz in Africa – vol 1
Track I — Venda introduction (traditional) 1.48.
Samson Singo is a busker (a strolling street performer) who wandered into the studios during the session. The mbira piano is about eight inches long and four inches wide. It consists of a number of steel spikes of varying lengths attached to a wooden resonator; the spikes are plucked with the thumb nails.
Track 2 — "Delilah" (Victor Young) 6.06.
Splicing "Delilah" into the Venda introduction we thought might point up the light-years that exist between the "beginning" and the "present". Chris Joseph is on piano.
Track 3 — "Round Midnight" (Monk, Williams, Hanighen) 4.16.
This track features pianist Chris Joseph who was the only musician in the Union who knew the tune. In criticizing the musicians in Durban, I mentioned this fact — the next day, his phone rang three times.
Track 4 — "Lover Come Back To Me" (Romberg-Hammerstein) 3.38.
Kippie insisted this be "my" tune, but we finally compromised on adding some I6's by Kippie, Hugh and Jonas.
Track 5 — "Body and Soul" (Green, Sour, Heyman) 4.08.
This features Kippie, who really "plays" the tune rather than treating it as a virtuoso tour de force.
Track 6 — "Old Devil Moon" (Lane, Harburg) 5.30.
This tune came up at a jam session and Kippie, who was only vaguely familiar with it, insisted on working it over until hejcould call it his own. The G major chord in the bridge absolutely gassed him each time we went around. He considered it a "moment of truth" in the tune. He is right, of course, for who ever heard of anyone going from an F minor chord to G major? Surely a moment of truth.
Track 7— "Yesterdays" (Kern, Harbach) 5.25.
We seemed to run into meter trouble on this tune until we dis¬covered that Jonas was deliberately juxtaposing a "quote" of one part of the melody over the chords of another part. Of the three (Hugh, Kippie, Jonas) Jonas was the quickest "study" with a new tune and seemed to have the best facility for playing in the twelve keys.
Track 8 — "X-Ray's Friend" (Freddie Gambrell) 3.32
This track features Chris Joseph again. For all of his rather amazing familiarity with present-day idioms of jazz piano, Chris manages a lyricism that is quite his own.
Track 9— "Cosmic Ray" (Vernacular) 3.40.
This is Ray Shange playing the pennywhistle, or for that matter, two pennywhistles simultaneously as he does on this track. Playing the pennywhistle is only one aspect of this deeply sensitive man who draws magnificently and also plays credible jazz drums. The "pennywhistle," incidently, costs about five shillings, or about sixty cents in United States currency.

CD 2 Jazz in Africa Vol. 2

Track I — 12 x 12 (vernacular) 7.28.
Upon my arrival in South Africa, I quickly learned that the twelve-bar blues (called "the twelve") reigned supreme at the local "blows". Somehow, I became fascinated with the relationship of the two musical absolutes — twelve bars in twelve keys and my wife, Terry, decided it should be "twelve by twelve". As Kippie said, "keys are keys wherever you go".

Track 2 — "Mabomvana" (Mackay Davashe) 5.02.
"Mabomvana" literally means "little red" but a free translation would be "hot stuff ". One night at a session, the subject of the number of possible harmonic "solutions" to an original melody arose and I maintained there could be more than one until the composer designated his particular "solution". Kippie agreed, but some of the others doubted it so Kippie played this vernacular piece "Mabomvava" and asked me to work out a "solution." I had never heard the tune before and my solution was based upon a familiar chord chart in F sharp major. This broke Kippie up since he had played the tune for years on a chord chart in B flat major. We decided to record both solutions of the same melody— "Mabomvana" in B flat major and "Johnny's Idea" in F sharp major.

Track 3 — "Johnny's Idea" (Davashe, Mehegan) 3.46.

Track 4 — "Like Someone In Love" (Burke, Van Heusen) 3.31.
This one features Hugh. An advocate of the Beiderbecke — Davis-Baker school, Hugh has developed many of his own personal idioms which already mark him as an original thinking musician in contemporary jazz. His proposed trip to America this winter for study may be the beginning of a major jazz career.

Track 5 — "Angel Eyes" (Matt Dennis) 11.29.
We decided we needed a "fat" tune to stretch out with and here it is. Kippie's solo, I believe, is one of the great moments of the entire two volumes.

Track 6 — "Yardbird Suite" (Parker) 3.39.
Kippie again with a bow to Parker. Of all the Parker imitators, and they are legion, Kippie seems the most personal and the least imitative. Like Parker, he is short on repertoire and long on the blues, although living where he does justitfies an un-familiarity with tunes that is impermissible in America where fifteen - tune musicians flourish.

Track 7 — "These Foolish Things" (Strachey, Marvell) 4.16
Chris again with a ballad. One learns to really play a ballad last —the most difficult challenge for an improvisor. Chris handles this well with a nod to George Shearing.

Saturday, March 19, 2011



And now something completely different ... This a very interesting album recorded in 1993 by French West Indian percusionnist Henri Guédon. It is a suite build around the traditionnal dance Mazurka, a  style that was once popular in the French West Indies. The album encompasses a whole range of musical styles: mazurka,  traditionnal French West Indian percussions, steel pan, salsa, biguine, classical and  jazz.  Amazing album!

Henri GUEDON (born May 22, 1944 in Fort de France in Martinique - died on February 12, 2006 in Paris, France after heart surgery) was a Martiniquan percussionist. His first band was called La Contesta and he organised it when he was 20. He was awarded a Maracas d'Or the first year the awards ran. In 1983, Philippe Langlais invited him to compose a mix of classical and jazz with his orchestra, the rsulting composition called Opéra Triangulaire. He was a judo champion 1963-65. Multiple albums fused Antillean rhythms with other music from around the world.[2] Guedon was instrumental in exporting the new sound of 60s and 70s Latin -guaguanco, boogaloo, salsa, descarga - to France and the rest of Europe. When Guedon began placing his percussion instruments at the front of the stage in the style of his great influence Ray Barretto, French audience members found themselves shocked and intrigued. Soon enough, greats like El Conde and Pacheco were touringFrance. Were it not for Henri Guedon, Europe could have conceivably taken years to move forward from mambo and cha-cha-cha. (source: Wikipedia).   Here is an obituary in English.

En 1993, avec la collaboration de la Ville de Courbevoie, il crée Nomadisme Musical aux Caraibes, suite de Mazurkas et diverses danses Caraibes avec la participation de l'ensemble instrumental “Parenthèses” avec la chanteuse Yoianda 
Hernandez el ie pianiste Georges Rabol (of Baroque Jazz Trio fame)

Worth mentionning too is the contribution of caribbean jazz pianist / organist Georges-Edouard NOUEL.  Nouel has played with names such as Rufus Harley, Byron Pope, Bernard Lubat, Max Cilla, Kali, Pierre Vassiliu, Eddy Louiss, Mino Cinelu, Bobby Rangell, Sulhiman Hakim, Winston Berkeley ...

This album is OOP.  

Saturday, March 12, 2011


TOM MAWI QUARTET - AT TOM'S PLACE (Fiji - Australia - 1999)

A couple of months ago I posted a big band from Mauritius, a small Indian Ocean country better known for sugarcane and tourism than for jazz music.  This time we go further east, to the mighty Pacifc Ocean  and another small island state known for sugarcane (a declining industry) and tourism but also, unfortunately, for military coups and ethnic tensions. 
I found this album not in Fiji but in Noumea, the capital of the French Overseas Territory of New Caledonia (I don't know if it still exists but Noumea had one of the best record shops in the South Pacific, at least for CD re-issues).  A few weeks later I found myself in Suva, capital of Fiji, and attended a conference hosted at the Holiday Inn.  After work we had a drink at the hotel bar where a trio was playing some smooth cocktail jazz as fits this kind of setting but the guitarist was obviously a good notch above average. He had a natural swing - even in this kind of setting where nobody really listens - and obviously he'd listened a lot to Wes Montgomery ,,, that guitar player was none other than Tom Mawi. 

This album was recorded in Australia in 1999, with financial assistance from the French Embassy ... I assume the Ambassador (or was it the Attaché Culturel?) was a bit of a jazz enthusiast.  They even sent Tom to a Jazz festival in France.  I know he also played in New Caledonia.  Merci la France!

Tom Mawi (born 1943) has been active in Fiji since the early sixties.  He names Les Paul and Chet Atkins as early influences. Then he discovered Barney Kessel, Tal Farlow, Tony Mottola and eventually Wes Montgomery, his greatest influence.  

As you can see the repertoire is mostly standards with two of his blues-based compositions thrown in for good measure. It's an enjoyable album, just plain, well-played jazz.  And when you're having a cocktail at a bar in Fiji, looking at the Pacific Ocean (actually looking at the extremely polluted Suva Bay ...), and Tom Mawi is playing in the background ... you can think for a while that you've reached Paradise.

A more recent CD is still available and can be purchased here.
And if you wanna see Tom playing the Blues behind singer Michelle Rounds, in Suva , here it is ....

Friday, March 4, 2011


ACT BIG BAND (Belgium, 1981)
If you've never heard ACT Big Band, prepare yourself to a major discovery!  One of the greatest "Deep Jazz" aggregation on the Continent ... and just another of Belgium's many well kept secrets!
ACT Big Band is drummer Felix Simtaine's dream come true. Almost a "who's who" of modern jazz in Belgium.  ACT second LP features exciting compositions by members and friends of the band.

Progressive writing and free improvisation are combined with these basic ingredients of big band jazz: intense swing and  richness of sound.

Four of the seven tracks were recorded Live at the Beursschouwburg, a theatre / concert hall in Brussels, in 1981.

A Who's Who of modern Belgian Jazz ?  Check this impressive roster of talents:

Felix Simtaine: drums and leader
Michel Herr: piano, conductor
Jean-Louis Rasinfosse : bass
Guy Cabay: vibes
Paolo Radoni: guitar
Steve Houben: alto & soprano sax, flute, conductor
John Ruocco: tenor, soprano sax
Robert Jeanne: tenor sax
Pierre Vaiana: tenor sax
Johnan Vandendriessche: baritone sax, piccolo
Alain Devis: trumpet, fluegelhorn
Nic Fissette: trumpet, fluegelhorn
Richard Rousselet: trumpet, fluegelhorn
Bert Joris: trumpet, fluegelhorn
Paul Bourdiaudhy: trombone
Andre Knapen: trombone
Jean-Paul Danhier: trombone, tuba

Side A of the LP
A.1. Bad Fever     composed & arranged by Michel Herr
A.2. Song for Micheline     composed & arranged by Michel Herr
A.3. I remember Barney          composed & arranged by Bill Frisell
A.4. Alliz Dog     composed and arranged by Felix Simtaine

Side B of the LP
B.1. For Peanuts   composed & arranged by Michel Herr
B.2. 43, Joy Street    composed & arranged by Bill Frisell
B.3. Nose Drops  composed and arranged by Steve Houben

If you like modern big band, don't miss this one. It can't get any better!  And leave a comment  ... and say thanks to my friend JC who assisted me patiently in the conversion from LP to MP3.
To the best of my knowledge, this album is OOP and unavailable on CD.