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- Verse 1+ by The Jazz Epistles
9/10 Mike Staff review, 21 August 2014
Amazing historic jazz reissue alert! This album here by South Africa's Jazz Epistles is important for all sorts of reasons. Firstly, it's believed to be the first album by a black South African group, South Africa's first bebop band no less, and it's also notable because certain individuals involved - particularly trumpeter Hugh Masekela and ivory-tinkler Dollar Brand (now Abdullah Ibrahim) - went on to international stardom in their own right.
There's nothing here to suggest that the scene or musicians were in their infancy, though - 'Verse 1+' is a non-stop riot of lively melodic interplay, energetically shuffling rhythms and tightly arranged dynamics. It's still the '50s so as you'd imagine the major influences seem to be big band jazz and American bebop. The squeaky 'Cosmic Ray' in which the liner notes state "Ray Shange plays two penny whistles at the same time" is particularly fun with some tasty piano showboating too, and I also really like the weaving trumpet ejaculations of the sinister but swinging 'Scullery Dept' which moves on to some superb semi-abstractions in a cheeky piano solo that drops in and out of atonal madness and bouncy concordant thrills, but it's hard to pick highlights because the whole album is superb entertainment. With only 500 of this reissue pressed I'd snap up a copy quick!
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