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The Blue Notes

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Pianist Chris McGregor formed this South African group in 1962 with Dudu Pukwana (alto), Mongezi Feza (trumpet), Nick Moyake (tenor), Johnny Dyani (bass), and Louis Moholo (drums). In 1963, the Blue Notes won the country's Best Jazz Group award, but the tightening rules following anti-apartheid uprisings made life impossible in South Africa for a racially mixed band, so in 1964 they fled the country via an invitation to perform at the Antibes Jazz Festival (Legacy, Ogun 1995). After the concert, they busked for a while in towns in the South of France. For the winter they moved to Zurich, where fellow expatriate Abdullah Ibrahim helped them, after which they went to London and then Copenhagen (Very Urgent, Polydor, with Ronnie Beer on tenor). Life in Europe wasn't easy, with racism being far from uncommon and work insufficient; their refugee status didn't help, either. Moyake, homesick, went back to South Africa, Dyani moved to Copenhagen and created his own groups there, and McGregor founded the Brotherhood of Breath in London with the white South African bassist Harry Miller. Besides playing in the Brotherhood, Pukwana and Moholo led their own bands, often employing each other. Feza's trumpet was heard with Keith Tippett, Henry Cow, and Robert Wyatt, but he died prematurely in 1975 (Blue Notes for Mongezi, Ogun 1975). Sadly, all of the Blue Notes except Louis Moholo passed away between then and 1990. The group's last record is a moving tribute in trio to Johnny Dyani (Blue Notes for Johnny, Ogun 1987). ~ Francesco Martinelli

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