The 22nd of Jon Turney’s weekly selection (introduced HERE) is a classic from the great Anglo-South African blending of the 1970s.
This set, the first as named leader by the indomitable South African drummer Louis Moholo–Moholo, has been hard to come by lately, so it’s heartening to see Ogun Records’ catalogue beginning to appear on Bandcamp this year*.
This one has a fervour that makes the years since 1978 melt away. Like his many later groups, it builds on the drummer’s penchant for working with players who loved to explore free music but still had a place for melody. On some tracks there’s lengthy dialogue between the two trombones – Nick Evans and Radu Malfatti always seemed to appear together in the ’70s. On others we hear plenty from Evan Parker and Keith Tippett.
On this, the final cut, the spotlight is on Kenny Wheeler. Like most of the others, it is anthemic. Drums and bass impel the music with a power that is positively awe-inspiring. Moholo-Moholo’s drums combine a breathtaking lightness with rock solid timekeeping when he locks on, and there’s an additional quality – especially on older recordings – of somehow being everywhere at once, leading the others on, anticipating what they are doing, and responding, all at the same time.
After a brief gesture from the piano, the horns state the hymn-like 12-bar theme. Drums and bass join the hymnal, then Wheeler’s trumpet bursts out of the mix, dancing around the melody and reconstructing it at will, but never losing the thread of the song. It’s a rare solo that can still give you goose bumps decades after first hearing. Then Tippett picks up the rumination he hinted at the outset, playing with simple arpeggios, and the theme gets a final outing, the mood having somehow softened and deepened at the same time.
*The original album is also available from Cafe Oto on vinyl or to download here. The Bandcamp set combines Spirits Rejoice! with another Moholo set for a bumper collection of life-enhancing music.