Jazz In Transit - Live In Cape Town
Re-released in 2009 and originally released (on CD) in 2006, Morris Goldberg's Jazz In Transit - Live in Cape Town was originally released as a vinyl double album in 1983. (The vinyl is incidentally a prized collector's item.) As the CD release is a single CD, not the whole of the original live concert is covered. Nonetheless, at just under an hour and a quarter this album is an excellent selection that carries the spirit of the concert extremely well. The latter took place at the Baxter Theatre in Rondebosch, on a trip back to Cape Town from New York where Goldberg has been living since the 1970s.
Goldberg may be more familiar to most but hardened jazz aficionados as a sideman and session musician through his work with artists like Hugh Masekela, Harry Belafonte, Abdullah Ibrahim/Dollar Brand, Miriam Makeba, and numerous others, but most notably perhaps as 'the guy who played the pennywhistle' (and sax) on Paul Simon's Graceland album (he appeared in the video of the single You Can Call Me Al - with its prominent pennywhistle solo - from that album). Sadly and quite unjustly, Goldberg's work on the more popular side of things has somewhat eclipsed his sterling work in jazz and as a leader in particular. Yet, Morris Goldberg is one of the pioneers of Cape jazz, alongside other greats such as Abdullah Ibrahim (originally aka Dollar Brand). In the 90s, Goldberg started his 'safrojazz' project with his band Ojoyo, with whom he has recorded three albums to date.
The current offering sees Morris Goldberg teamed up with the renowned South African trio, The Tony Schilder Trio, comprising the exceptional Tony Schilder on piano, Gary Kriel on bass and Cecil Ricca on drums, with the addition of Merton Barrow on vibes. Goldberg here plays alto, soprano, clarinet, and flute, all with equal virtuosity and panache. The trio and Barrow provide a perfect match and counterfoil.
The material on Jazz In Transit is a delightful, exuberant mix that sets off standards and jazz classics such as the Ray Henderson penned Flying High, Duke Ellington's In A Sentimental Mood, the Parker/Gillespie showpiece Anthropology, the Jerome Kern penned Yesterdays and Sonny Rollins' Tenor Madness (first recorded with John Coltrane), against vibrant Cape originals with sometimes touches of mbaqanga influences, as well as a Latin groove. The juxtaposition works supremely well, with the standards and classics given a distinctly Cape treatment, thus providing cohesion and unity.
Jazz In Transit is a joy of a discovery here, and it still sounds as fresh as it must have done back in 83. A double CD release of the full concert would be nice, but this release feels complete and self-contained as is. Goldberg's improvs in particular, as well as vibist Barrow's, are as exuberant as the whole album and often breathtaking. The soloing by the trio, in particular pianist Schilder, is also more than excellent. World class musicians one and all who sadly never were as well known and recognised outside South Africa as they deserve.
The Cape grooves are a particular delight and somewhat foreshadow Goldberg's later work with his band Ojoyo. They're simply irresistible, joyful and infectious. That is not to say that the jazz classics on Jazz In Transit are any the less irresistible, and indeed, Anthropology in particular is a bit of a show-stealer. Goldberg takes this on clarinet and trades solos with with Barrow's vibes in an almost heart-stopping, relentless nine-plus minutes. An outstanding solo from Schilder around the middle of the piece is also not to be missed in this ecstatic performance.
As thoroughly consistent throughout as you could wish for, Jazz In Transit is also more than merely compelling. It is completely irresistible with its infectious grooves and stellar performances, and its wit and charm that pervade everything. A joyful, vibrant, beautiful - and beautifully executed - album that is hugely enjoyable.
It should hardly be necessary to point out that Morris Goldberg's Jazz In Transit should be past essential in any collection of South African/Cape jazz and world jazz, and essential even in any general modern jazz collection. Did I say I love this album? I love this album!
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