The Jazz Clan - Dedication LP
Label: Outernational Sounds
One of the rarest and most sought after South African recordings of the early 1970s, available again for the first time since its original South African release - the swinging township groove of The Jazz Clan's 1973 debut LP, Dedication. One of the dozens of South African groups who styled themselves as "jazz dignitaries" - like the Jazz Giants, the Jazz Ambassadors, or the Jazz Ministers, for instance - their two widely separated studio albums for Gallo (Dedication and Makwenkwe, released in 1973 and 1976 respectively) are extremely hard to find.
They may have left a small recorded footprint, but it was an impressive one, epitomized by their hard-swinging 1973 debut, Dedication - a tough, swinging soul-jazz set with distinct African touches which is counted by those in the know as among the best South African jazz recordings of the era. The players that comprised the Jazz Clan were veterans. And they thought big - their first incarnation during the 1960s had been as a 16-piece, and they had held down a residency at one of Nelson Mandela's regular haunts, the Planet Hotel in Fordsburg. The original leader, drummer Gordon "Micky" Mfandu, had been a regular on the Johannesburg jazz scene since the early 1960s and had recorded with figures including Gideon Nxumalo, and the famous Blue Notes; along with bassist Mongezi Velelo, he had also been a member of the revered Soul Giants unit. Baritone player Cornelius Khumalo had also played with Chris McGregor and the Blue Notes in the pit band of the musical play Mr Paljas, and had also recorded with township legend Zakes Nkosi. Also in the line-up, and handling most writing duties here, was the great trumpeter Peter Segona - a quicksilver hornsman, Segona later sought exile in Europe, where he played with musical luminaries across the continent including Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath, Cymande, and Manu Dibango.
By the 1970s, Mfandu was dead, murdered in Soweto, and the group had consolidated as a septet - the late drummer is memorialized here on closer "Micky." South African jazz was moving toward electrified funk and bump, and the new township style of Dollar Brand was just around the corner. But Dedication captures the acoustic jazz sound of the early 1970s in its pomp - a handful of tightly wound songs jostling for space, blending up-tempo soul-jazz sensibilities with Latin influences and pronounced township jazz accents, the latter especially audible in Dimpie Tshabalala's piano vamps, Jeff Mpete's pattering hi-hat emphases, and the unmistakably South African swagger and dip of the horns on cuts like "Rabothata."