Ah... at last it's done. I mean the recording of South Africa's number one tenor sax player, Winston "Mankunku" Ngozi. This is the LP that every jazz fan has been waiting for. Listen to it from side one to the last note on side two then you'll agree with me that this is jazz, dished out by the son of the soil in a soul/jazz bowl.
About the man himself. He was born on 21st June 1943 in Retreat, Cape Province. He started playing the piano at the age of ten and two years later bought a tenor saxophone. "Mankunku," as he is called, started to take music seriously in the early sixties. His first professional engagement was with Alf Herbert's African Jazz and Variety and thereafter with South Africa's greatest bassist Midge Pike of Cape Town, about whom he said "Midge was really the man behind my success. He really helped me a lot, I take my hat off to him, dad — I will always remember him." I asked him who influenced his playing. "Daddy Trane and Brother Shorter," he said. "Is that why you composed a tune called "Dedication?" "Yes dad, I feel like crying every time I listen to the music of these two men." I first heard Mankunku play in 1967, during the La Vern Baker/George "Stardust" Green tour. I am sure that many a jazz fan will agree with me that he was the star of the show.
On the first side of this LP is "Yakhal Inkomo" (one of his original works), literally translated "Bellowing Bull." The sound of a bull bellowing mournfully at the loss of one of his kind, is one from deep down in the heart. It is with this sound captured musically, that Mankunku expresses his deep grief at the loss of one of the greatest tenor players in the world, Daddy Trane, as he calls the late John Coltrane. If you listen to the early recordings of John Coltrane — for example "Blue Train," "Moments Notice" and Wayne Snorter's "Johnny's Blues" and "Noise in the Attic," you will agree with him that he was influenced by them. The second tune is also his own composition — "Dedication" (to Daddy Trane and Brother Shorter). It is a 4/4, which is so well arranged that I could hardly believe that it is his original work — with this tune he really plays his part. He plays himself. I remember during the recording session he didn't want anyone to move about because such movements disturb his feelings and concentration. The other tunes are his choice. From Horrace Silver's works he chose "Doodlin"' and from Coltrane's "Bessie's Blues."
About the trio that provided the background, he said "they are fabulous dad, they are with me all the time. When I reach the climax, they are there with me — I love working with them." That, I myself believe, because while recording "Yakhal' Inkomo" I saw tears rolling down his cheeks after Lionel Pillay's piano solo. Everyone there was thrilled to hear Lionel play with such feeling, a real down-to-earth feeling. The Early Mabuza Trio played and played — they deserve full marks.
— RAY NKWE
President of the Jazz Appreciation Society of South Africa
Cover Photographs: ALF KHUMALO
Recorded 23rd July by DAVE CHALLEN in the Johannesburg Studios of Manley van Niekerk
Produced by: RAY NKWE
This LP was also reissued on CD by Gallo Record Company in 1996, 2007. The CD features Mankunku's first two albums and is titled Yakhal' Inkomo after this record—South Africa's best selling jazz record of all time. Spring was Mankunku's second and can be viewed here.
Some of the additional liner notes by Rob Allingham for the CD version (CDGSP 3123) have been added to the image grid above.
For more about these albums click here.