12 x 12
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".
"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.
LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE
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.
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.
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.
THESE FOOLISH THINGS
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.
Richard Austen & Downtown Studios
8 September 1959
ALBUM DESIGN BY
JOHN MEHEGAN WITH VARIOUS ARTISTS
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. View the original LP here.
A more commonly available compilation CD, Jazz in Africa Vol.1, issued by Camden (CDN 1004), features a selection of tracks from the Mehegan LPs and the Jazz Epistles' Verse 1 LP however this compilation is quite poorly researched with the liner notes giving the impression that all the tracks are by the Jazz Epistles (Dollar Brand etc...) and makes no mention of John Mehegan.