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.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Many,many thanks for this excellent compilation.
    It's very difficult to you to share with us the back cover to see the tracks?
    MANY,MANY WISHES...Thank you.

  3. Hi Kostas,
    the tracks are listed in the scanned inner sleeve. Can't scan the back cover now as I'm currrently overseas. Will look for it on the Net and add it if I find it.
    By the way, it is not a "compilation" but 2 full LPs.

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  5. You absolutely made a right choice in bying this album. Thanks

  6. I'll re-up soon. Gottafind the files as the CD is in Belgium and me pretty far down South

  7. Here is the re-up:

    I was disapponted that this post did not generate more comments. These guys are so great, they play with so much soul it hurts!

  8. en effet du bon jazz

  9. Not sure how I missed this the first time. I'm grateful that you re-posted. It is a thrill to hear Kippie and the rest here. Brilliant stuff. Thank you so much.

  10. Missed this one the first time around, and I've never seen it posted anywhere. Truly a piece of history, to stand alongside the Jazz Epistles recording.

    Would love a re-up of the McCoy Mrubata as well if possible.
    Have also never seen a posting of the original Ibrahim "Mannenberg Is Where It's At" album.

    Thanks again

  11. One to put beside the early Blue Notes with Chris McGregor. Thank you.

  12. Thanks a lot BM!

    I'm a bit confused that your listing for Vol.2 is the same as for Vol.1? (??)

  13. Thanks Peter, the usual copy-paste error, I'm afraid. What's weird it that it took a year and a half for someone to notice it. Corrected now.

  14. Hi
    I recently bought an antology with same title but only 7 tracks ( 5 from vol 1 and 2 from vol 2)plu the first lp by Jazz Epistles. Sadly John Mehegan's name didn't appear! Please can you re-post? I'd like listen all songs! John Meheganis a forgotten hero of black-white integration.