Harry Miller's Isipingo Which Way Now

Cuneiform Records is single-handedly keeping the spirit of one of the great latter-day jazz movements alive: the South African-London nexus of the ’60s and ’70s. In the mid-’60s, several jazz musicians arrived in London, fleeing apartheid in South Africa. They brought with them a sound mixing Ellington, Parker and Ayler influences with South African kwela jazz. One of them was Harry Miller, who started his English career initially as bassist for Manfred Mann (himself a South African), and became best known as the bassist for the Brotherhood of Breath, a big band always leaning towards mayhem at any given moment. Isipingo are a pared down version of the band under Miller’s direction featuring Keith Tippett (King Crimson), Mongezi Feza, Louis Moholo and more. This fine recording presents four lengthy pieces recorded by Radio Bremen in 1975. This music is more linear than the Brotherhood’s work. The straighter charts are still laced with South African melodic statements but are essentially a showcase for long solo passages. Opening with "Family Affair,” the rhythm section of Miller and Moholo is a busy but focused ensemble, with Moholo sounding so excited on ride and rim shot that he threatens to speed ahead of the rest of the band. The best soloist in the band is undoubtedly Feza. Conjuring a wide array of pretty and slurred tones, it’s as though he’s chewed Don Cherry up and spit him back out again — simply a wonder to listen to. Paul Rutherford’s trombone is also fluid in its inventiveness and especially its harmonic movement. Tippett, whose unique sheets of sound on piano extrapolate far, far away from the kwela underpinnings of these pieces. This is joyful music. (Cuneiform)