52 Jazz Tracks for 2021 (5. ‘Magwaza’ from Johnny Dyani – Witchdoctor’s Son, 1978)

The fifth of Jon Turney’s weekly selection of tracks with staying power (introduced HERE), a high point of South African jazz in Europe.

Witchdoctor's Son album cover

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Some things you hear for the first time and think: “where has this music been all my life?”. South African jazz, Blue Notes style, can do this.

The 13 minutes of Magwaza begin with the tune being sung against repeated guitar arpeggios from Alfredo Nascimento, Johnny Dyani’s marvellous bass sound really kicks in, John Tchicai and Dudu Pukwana enter on saxes, and the intensity gradually builds as they trade solos.

Tchicai has a drier sound and Dudu a more vocalised tone that he deploys to breathtaking effect on a tune that becomes as much lament as celebration. Both come through powerfully, but it’s the conflicted emotion, almost overpowering the musical invention but never quite turning into unadorned screaming, that supercharges this one.

LINKS: Listen to the track on Spotify

Read Jon’s post in full on Bristol Jazz Log

Read Jon’s introduction to the ’52 tracks’ series

Week Four: Gary Burton ‘Olhos de Gato’

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