Hugh Masekela Phola

Hugh Masekela Phola
On the cusp of 70, this trumpeter and composer is recognized as both a world music pioneer and as a national hero in his native South Africa, where his music helped inspire the anti-apartheid struggle. Masekela's signature tune (and massive 1968 international hit) was entitled "Grazin' In The Grass," and there's a similarly languid feel to this record. Flugelhorn is his chosen instrument here, and there's a sweet purity in its tone. His vocals aren't quite as eloquent as his horn but are easy enough on the ears, as on the soulful (and possibly autobiographical) ballad "Sonnyboy." The breezy, jazzy instrumental "Moz" is a highlight, as is the gorgeous "Malungelo," featuring African percussion, acoustic guitars and sweet female vocals. Mbaqanga and jazz elements are fused smoothly, while traditional percussionists from Mozambique add an organic feel that counteracts some of the slightly slick programming and synths sounds utilized by producer/multi-instrumentalist Erik Paliani. It would have been nice to hear a few more musical chances being taken here but he has earned the right to rest on his laurels somewhat. A pleasant enough outing. (Times Square)