Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath – Procession

ProcessionProcession (Ogun) is the classic Brotherhood of Breath concert recording, made in Toulouse in May 1977, some five years after the Brotherhood’s initial brace of eponymous studio albums, and originally issued on Ogun vinyl in 1978.

With 23 minutes of previously excised music now restored—three of the ensemble’s shorter compositions, plus a few minutes of Chris McGregor’s “Sunrise of the Sun” that were previously trimmed to accommodate format restrictions—we now have two continuous performances, each comprising three individual pieces: not an entire concert then, but a good chunk of one; over an hour of continuous music, and glorious stuff it is too.

The sound has been cleaned up, so at worst there’s a slight mediating distance in the soundfield, but for the most part the 11-piece group is nicely individuated, collectively sounding punchy, vivid and immediate.

The heart of this Brotherhood was the Blue Notes, an expatriate South African group whose impact on British jazz is inestimable: pianist Chris McGregor; saxophonist Dudu Pukwana; bassists Johnny Dyani and fellow Cape Town exile Harry Miller; and drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo. This quartet work the music’s core rhythms hard, constantly stoking and calibrating its bounce and buoyancy

Blue Notes’ trumpet player/flautist Mongezi Feza died in ’75, but he’s represented here by his compositions “You Ain’t Gonna Know Me (‘Cause You Think You Know Me)”—its upbeat unison township riff reinstated to kick the set off with a slightly ragged invitation to the dance—and the spiritualized “Sonia”, one of the groups most powerful and affecting pieces.

The highlight remains the original vinyl’s 18’19” second side, a Pukwana composition titled “Kwhalo”, on which the orchestra lock into a celebratory, steadily-riffing Afro-funk groove, and exultant solos ebb and surge through the choral ecstatics of the killer seven-piece frontline: Pukwana plus Mike Osborne (alto saxophones); Evan Parker (tenor sax); Bruce Grant (baritone sax & flute); Harry Beckett and Mark Charig (trumpets); and Radu Malfatti (trombone).

The Brotherhood’s rhythm sense is irrepressible, and while there’s lots of soloing throughout it’s never self-indulgent but rather conducted with the intoxicated loquacity of a nights-long carouse, in collective sparring and repartee, while McGregor’s piano sounds a secular gospel. There’s only one Louis Moholo, but, with Millar and Dyani in tandem, its his idiosyncratic rhythm sense that drives this joyful and irrepressible music.

It’s great to have Procession back, and better yet to have it on Millar’s own Ogun label, which is sustained these days by the efforts of his wife and partner, Hazel.

Related Posts
Chris McGregor and Brotherhood of Breath Reissues (written for The Jazz Mann)
Wadada Leo Smith & Louis Moholo-Moholo – Ancestors
Alexander Hawkins & Louis Moholo-Moholo – Keep Your Heart Straight

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