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Rather than cast the net wide for this latest compilation, Strut focus on the work of South African drummer and singer Julian Bahula between the years of 1966 to '84, with the bulk of the material here coming from his Malombo Jazz Makers, who dominate the first CD, and Jabula, filling most of disc 2.
The former band was formed in '60s South Africa, playing a revolutionary style of jazz which mixed indigenous African rhythms and snaking melodies with elements of jazz and blues, with hypnotically puttering percussion propping up lithe and understated interplay between flute and electric guitar. The material on this disc is all by either Malombo Jazz Makers Plus 2, Malombo Jazz Men, Malombo Jazz Makers or Malombo, since the band went through a succession of name and line-up changes, but the sound remains essentially the same, laid back and accessible Afro-jazz with a light and uncluttered approach.
From the vintage electronic throbs and chirrups and righteously political spoken word that open disc 2 it's clear this marks a very different phase in Bahula's career than the first. Jabula was an international group he formed in London after being exiled from South Africa, taking the role of bandleader for the first time over a much denser and more energetic ensemble. The pace quickly picks up from the experimental opener with 'Let Us Be Free' which is a furious and celebratory riot of parping brass and nimble-fingered guitar funk driven along by a polyrhythmic multi-percussionist melee of trap kit and hand drums. 'Mathome' is another high point, a cheeky little blast of slinky easy listening jazz-funk. Personally I'm having more fun with the stuff on this half of the compilation, generally brassier and funkier and more polished than the more laid back jazzy times on the opening disc, but nothing's sent me scrambling for the skip button.
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