IMPORTANT UPDATE: THE JAZZ EPISTLES
We regret to inform patrons that due to a medical emergency, Hugh Masekela is unable to perform this Thursday.
We will proceed with this concert and celebrate South Africa Freedom Day with ABDULLAH IBRAHIM & EKAYA performing the music from the historic Jazz Epistles album.
Young South African trumpeter LESEDI NTSANE will sit in for Hugh Masekela. “This concert is very special to me...The Jazz Epistles are legendary. They are the blood of the soil. We all grew up on them. They gave us life and this is historic.”
Please watch this special video message from Hugh Masekela:
We look forward to celebrating South Africa Freedom Day with you this Thursday, April 27.
For those requesting refunds, they will be available at point of purchase until show time (at 8pm).
The Town Hall + (Le) Poisson Rouge
Legends of South African music reunite for a historic concert to tell the story of The Jazz Epistles, arguably the most important jazz album ever recorded in its country’s history. Abdullah Ibrahim welcomes special guest musicians from his youth, and from the original Jazz Epistles band to reimagine music for his Ekaya Chamber Ensemble. This music was almost lost forever -- only 500 copies were made in 1959, buried, and rediscovered decades later after the tyranny of apartheid. These giants of South African jazz tell their story at this extremely rare concert at The Town Hall in New York City.
Abdullah Ibrahim – piano
Lesedi Ntsane – trumpet
Noah Jackson - bass, cello
Will Terrill – drums
Cleave Guyton Jr.– alto saxophone, flute, clarinet, piccolo
Lance Bryant – tenor saxophone
Andrae Murchison - trombone, trumpet
Marshall McDonald – baritone saxophone
Dorothy Masuka was born in 1935 in Zimbabwe. At the age of 12 her family emigrated to South Africa. Her talent for singing was first noticed when she was a student at St. Thomas Catholic Boarding School in Johannesburg.
Her talent was soon recognised and she was snapped up to sign a record deal by Troubadour. Masuka was soon being compared to Dolly Rathebe, who was already a well known singer. She was invited to join Philemon Mogotsi’s African Ink Spots in Durban, with whom she performed for a while. Later she left for Zimbabwe, where she teamed up with the Golden Rhythm Crooners.
Dorothy Masuka’s great promise as a singer and songwriter began to show when she penned and recorded the tune Hamba Nontsokolo. The song was among the most popular in the 1950s. Masuka began to tour with The Harlem Swingsters and Dolly Rathebe in the mid-1950s.
Masuka endeared herself to a wide audience from the start of her career through her provocative and entertaining compositions that riled the apartheid regime. In 1961, the apartheid Special Branch seized the master recordings of her composition Lumumba, a song which paid tribute to Patrice Lumumba, the great liberation hero and first democratically elected President of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Masuka was not deterred and in the same year went on to pen and record Dr. Malan, a song about the apartheid laws of the Nationalist Party, which too was seized and banned.
Masuka went into exile and spent time in Malawi and Tanzania, where she campaigned for the liberation of African people through her music and wrote and performed her most memorable tunes. These include the famous and widely recorded Pata Pata, Khawuleza, Kulala and Into Yam, songs recorded by artists such as Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela. She is credited as the inspiration for many female singers on the continent.
Over more than half a century, she has served as the inspiration for scores of emerging singers and contributed significantly in combating the apartheid regime and ideology through her cultural work. She remains a true icon of African culture and song.
Masuka lives in Yeoville, Johannesburg. She continues to record and perform locally and abroad.
Bakithi Kumalo's musical career has been characterized by a series of serendipitous events, ranging from his debut gig as a precocious seven-year-old filling in for the bassist in his uncle's band to his enlistment into Paul Simon's group during the recording sessions of the pop star's landmark Graceland album in 1985.
Kumalo creates a singular electric fretless bass sound teeming with double stops that sound like human voices and the African grooves of his homeland, and has garnered him a stellar reputation as a sideman. In addition to touring with Simon, he's also recorded and/or toured with the likes of Gloria Estefan, Derrick Trucks and Susan Tedeschi, Chico Ceasar, Harry Belafonte, Laurie Anderson, Cyndi Lauper, Gerald Albright, Miriam Makeba, Randy Brecker, Grover Washington Jr., Bob James, Angelique Kidjo, Jon Secada, Josh Groban and Chris Botti.
Kumalo has also been active as a solo artist, with four fine albums to his credit — 1998's San' Bonan, 2000's In Front of My Eyes, 2008’s Transmigration, and 2011’s Change — as well as three award winning children's albums recorded with his wife, vocalist Robbi K.
Kumalo's bass-playing history began in Soweto where he grew up surrounded by music. His mother sang in a church choir and his uncle, a saxophone player, was always at his house rehearsing his band. "Every weekend, everyone would be at my house singing and playing all day," Kumalo says. "Plus there were bands on every block of my neighborhood. So, music surrounded me. There was traditional African rhythmic music as well as a cappella vocal groups. I picked up the bass early and realized I could follow the groove of a tune with it. I could play the bass lines from a cappella music, and I learned how to develop lines based on the left-hand work of accordion players in the township bands."
However, it was an 18-month road trip with his uncle's band to Zululand when he was 14 that helped to solidify his bass voice. The band gigged as well as played at schools and hospitals, but got stranded there. During that downtime, Kumalo had a dream where he saw someone playing, using his thumb in a particular way. That set him on the path of bass discovery.
Kumalo says it wasn't until later that he heard the fretless sound by people like Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller and Victor Bailey. "And, of course, there was Jaco Pastorius," he says. "I heard him, and I thought, 'hey, that's like me.'"
While Kumalo became a professional at an early age in his uncle's band, life in apartheid South Africa posed many challenges; so many, in fact, that Kumalo began to look for work outside the music field. However, a producer friend introduced him to Simon, whose music he was largely unfamiliar with. Despite his nervousness in meeting the American pop star in a studio setting, Kumalo says Simon immediately gravitated to his bass style.
Kumalo's work on Graceland opened the doors for him to pursue other avenues, including recent recordings with Herbie Hancock, Randy Brecker and Cyndi Lauper. Plus, he hooked up with former Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, who took the bassist on tour with him. "Mickey was great," Kumalo says. "There was no audition. He told me to pack up my bass and not to worry about learning the music because that would happen on the road. It was a great time."
This unique performance will be captured for Jazz Night In America on NPR and The Checkout produced by WBGO.
Photo: Jazz Epistles | Ibrahim_#2 | MM Music Agency