Hugh Masekela Sixty

Hugh Masekela’s 60th birthday is cause for celebration, but perhaps the best way to observe this milestone would be to reflect back on his storied career, not to pick up the CD that commemorates his birthday. A giant in the greatly underrated South African jazz scene of the ’60s who went on to international renown in world music circles in the ’70s and ’80s, Masekela’s latest has him in a somewhat complacent frame of mind, keeping the heat on low and his signature funky undertones tepid. Nothing wrong with that as far as that goes, either — he’s certainly earned the luxury of taking a bit of a breather, but that doesn’t make for great jazz. Fortunately, you can still get your hands on brilliant recordings like The Americanization of Ooga Booga and The Lasting Impressions of Hugh Masekela, reissued together by Verve about three years ago, if you want evidence of his sure-handed encounters between South African traditions, funk and Stateside jazz. (Sony)