Hugh Masekela – Phola

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South African Trumpet Legend
Hugh Masekela
Celebrates His 70th Year with New CD and U.S. Appearances

Phola, his 35th as a Leader
set for March 16th National Release

 

An icon in jazz and a hero in his homeland, South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela is in classic form on Phola,
his 35th recording as a leader and second for the Four Quarters label.
Produced by the talented multi-instrumentalist Erik Paliani, it
features Masekela’s fluid, warm-toned flugelhorn work and distinctive
vocals on a collection of relaxed, engaging vehicles that blend aspects
of jazz, R&B, Afro-beat and township music. From buoyant
instrumentals like “Mwanayu Wakula” and the grooving “Moz” (a number
ever bit as catchy as his 1968 breakthrough hit “Grazing in the
Grass”), to stirring vocal numbers like “Ghana,” “Bring It Back Home”
and the autobiographical “Sonnyboy,” Masekela delivers with old school
charm and youthful enthusiasm on Phola (a South African term meaning to get well, to heal, to relax and chill).

 

He follows the release of this engaging CD with gala appearances in the
United States, including the San Francisco Jazz Festival (April 24th),
Houston International Festival (April 25th) and New Orleans Jazz &
Heritage Festival (April 26th).

 

As a revered artist who has worked with several renowned producers over
the past 45 years, Masekela was pleased to work with young producer
Paliani on Phola. “After I
heard work he had done with other people’s music, including Zama Jobe’s
first CD and Mavo Solomon’s CD as well as hearing his guitar playing
behind other artists on live gigs, I was convinced that Erik was the
right person to ask for help in finding what I was hearing for this
project,” says Hugh. “Erik and his collaborator Ezra Erasmus were
focused on creating a calm musical astmosphere with unlimited space.
They are both master craftsmen who possess an outrageous sense of
humor. They are also scholars of every kind of music imaginable and
they work with the utmost respect and dedication to the music.”

 

Hugh adds, “Erik and Ezra strove to accompany my performances without
imposing their own visions of what it should be like.  The quality I
tried to convey was simplicity, accessibility, honesty, transparencey,
good playing and uncomplicated awareness-conveyance.”

 

Together they convey a buoyant township quality on the charming 12/8
groover “Malungelo” and “Ghana,” in which Masekela sings about how he
met his wife Elinam, revealing the influence of such engaging singers
as Harry Belafonte and Salif Keita. He explains that “Weather” is about
pollution, climate change, profit and greed, instead of a safe earth in
other words, destruction of the ecology. The autobiographical
“Sonnyboy”  however, begs parents to help their children follow their
muse and not prevent them from pursuing the careers they choose. Hugh’s
longtime associate Stewart Levine (a business partner and producer
going back to the “Grazing in the Grass” days) appears as a special
guest playing clarinet on the polyrhythmic funk instrumental “Moz.” 


Masekela’s vocal delivery on “Hunger” is particularly emotional. “It’s
about hunger and strife in the world, especially Africa,” he says.
“It’s also about lying politicians and their empty promises, how Africa
was hijacked by dishonest leaders and how voters are forgotten after
elections. It’s a plea to return to old values and respect for elders.”
He explains that “Bring It Back Home” is about politicians having to
return to care for the people who put them in power instead of
self-fulfillment, greed, deceit.

 
Yet another typically grooving, politically-charged offering from South Africa’s elder statesman of jazz, Phola is a rhythmic-melodic manifesto that provides plenty of food for thought as it compels listeners to dance.


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