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Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath

Chris McGregor

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Album Review

An album that fuses the influence of African music, jazz-rock, and free improvisation, Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath shares affinities with the '70s music of Don Cherry and Miles Davis. Somewhat of a legendary album amongst collectors of British jazz and fusion, the LP was originally released in the '70s and in early 2002 finally became reissued by the Italian label Akarma. Enlisted on the session were the talents of a group of extraordinary musicians from the free jazz, progressive rock, and improvisation scenes. Chris McGregor led the group on piano and African xylophone with Malcolm Griffiths and Nick Evans on trombones, Mongezi Feza on pocket trumpet and Indian flute, Mark Charig on cornet, Harry Beckett on trumpet, and Dudu Pukwana on alto saxophone. Ronnie Beer's tenor saxophone is outstanding, and pitched up against Alan Skidmore's tenor and soprano saxophone, completing a massive horn section, are two bigger names: '70s U.K. jazzman Mike Osborne on alto saxophone and clarinet and John Surman on baritone and soprano saxophone. Brotherhood of Breath created one of the defining recordings of ethno-jazz with this album; with an expansive use of African-inspired melodies, they trace textures which culminate in an ecstatic peak on "Night Poem," the album's 20-minute standout track. Not to forget, the album is driven by the organic pulse of the rhythm section — bassist Harry Miller and drummer Louis Moholo, no less — who will be names familiar to fans of British free jazz. This album comes highly recommended to fans of Don Cherry, Afro-beat sounds, and the Sun Ra Arkestra.

Biography

Born: December 24, 1936 in Umtata, South Africa

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

Chris McGregor was born the son of a Scottish missionary, brought up on church hymns and Xhosa dances. He studied at the Cape Town College of Music and discovered the black jazz scene. His septet played in the 1962 National Jazz Festival, and after founding the Blue Notes in 1963, he led a big band. Harassed by the authorities, they escaped the country through an invitation to the 1964 Antibes Jazz Festival. Fellow expatriate Abdullah Ibrahim helped them find work in Zurich, then at Ronnie Scott's...
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Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath, Chris McGregor
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