The Jazzanians – Historical Album Release

The Jazzanians was a multi-racial jazz ensemble organized by Darius and Catherine Brubeck, in South Africa during the apartheid era featuring original music and future stars of the South African scene. Their 1988 album, We Have Waited Too Long, brilliantly restored and remastered by Peter Beckmann, Mastering Engineer of TechnologyWorks, was released on 12th April this year.

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Darius writes:

The Jazzanians were a unique band of exceptionally talented South African students, some of whom were already professional musicians. I launched the first university degree in Jazz at the University of Natal in 1984 and in 1988, the Jazzanians were the first multi-racial student jazz ensemble from South Africa to tour outside the country. They were a huge hit and appeared on national NBC and CBS television in the USA. Following this success, it seemed natural that the band should record, and We Have Waited Too Long was the result.

Re-releasing it in 2024 honours those Jazzanians no longer with us (Johnny Mekoa, Zim Ngqawana and Lulu Gontsana) and raises the South African Jazz flag. The recording is a jubilant expression of the creative interaction apartheid tried to stifle. The band, their tours and the recording were special projects organized by my wife, Catherine. Compositions by band members represent the quintessential sound of South African Jazz which is totally infectious.

Darius continues:

Given the style and era of this 1988 recording and leader Johnny Mekoa’s superb trumpet playing, listeners will be reminded of Paul Simon’s Graceland and their favorite songs from Hugh Masekela’s massive discography. Alto sax and flute, played by the now legendary Zim Ngqawana, tenor and soprano saxes played by Nic Paton plus Andrew Eagle on guitar complete the front line, a historic formation arranged like a little big band. Melvin Peters (long a top-rated pianist in SA), takes star turns on electric keyboard as well as taking care of the harmonies. Lulu Gontsana on drums lays down danceable ‘Township’ grooves and Victor Masondo’s fretless electric bass supports the band from the bottom up, contributing bad ass, witty fills.

Rooted in local African tradition, short melodic phrases are repeated over layers of exciting interlocking parts, while solos reflect the influence of American jazz. Even the two softer pieces (‘We Have Waited Too Long’ and ‘Peace Meal’) combine all these dynamic elements.  ‘Bayete’ sets the overall tone and pace with a couple of South African guitar licks that unleash the energy of the whole band as if they had indeed ‘waited too long’.  Once they get started, there’s no stopping. The title of the final track, ‘Se Hamba Nabo’ (we go together) implies both an ending of an era and a new beginning. Such was the excitement of South Africa at the end of the ‘80s and this album captures what is great about South African jazz.

The Jazzanians
Left to right: Mark Kilian (occasional dep for Melvin Peters), Victor Masondo, Melvin Peters, Johnny Mekoa, Andrew Eagle, Darius Brubeck. Sitting: Lulu Gontsana, Zim Ngqawana. (Photographer: Ted Brien)

Streaming


Review in Songlines Magazine June 2024

Review on Songlines Magazine

Review in The Jaz Rag spring 2024

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Review on Sandy Brown Jazz by Howard Lawes

Read this article by Howard Lawes reviewing both We Have Waited Too Long and Playing The Changes