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Jazz - Released October 28, 2016 | Universal Music

Distinctions Songlines Five-star review
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Jazz - Released April 29, 2002 | Columbia

Now happily resettled in South Africa, Masekela assembled a seven-piece group there and recorded an informal guided tour of his life and repertoire live in Washington D.C.'s Blues Alley. The songs stretch over a period of nearly five decades and several countries and composers -- from an incantatory Alexandria township tune, "Languta," which he learned in 1947, to a fairly ordinary piece written by keyboardist Themba Mkhize in 1993, "Until When." "Abangoma" starts the CD out on the right track, hearkening back to the early fusion of African music and jazz that Masekela was playing back in 1966. "Mandela (Bring Him Back Home)" may have lost some of its political raison d'etre by 1993, but it remains a good tune, and the band plays it with enthusiasm. Yet Masekela's biggest hit, "Grazing in the Grass," sounds a bit tired in this live rendition. There are two songs by the prolific South African composer Caiphus Semenya, "Nomali" and the driving "Ha Le Se," and the late Nigerian idol Fela Anikulapo-Kuti is represented by "Lady." Clearly the resolution of the political struggle in South Africa had mellowed Masekela; he sounds happier, perhaps less fiery, certainly more polished and refined on the trumpet and flugelhorn than when he started out. But when you hear his bitter narration on "Stimela," describing the life of formerly conscripted coal miners, you suspect that not all of the old wounds have healed. ~ Richard S. Ginell
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Jazz - Released April 4, 2011 | Legacy Recordings

With a mix of smooth contemporary jazz, Afro-beat, and world music, Beatin' Aroun de Bush is a highly accessible presentation of Hugh Masekela's flügelhorn expertise, as well as a visit to his South African homeland. This album was completed as his native country was voting to abolish apartheid, and the music contained herein is at times mellow and melancholy, but mostly celebratory. Masekela sings and chants, blows sweet phrases on his horn, and the whole band contributes to the rhythmic pulse with surprising instrumental accents and unexpected musical flourishes. The pop covers, Joe Jackson's "Steppin' Out" and Michael Jackson's "Rock with You," are enjoyable, but it's the African pieces "Batsumi," "Languta," "U-Mama," and the political title track that are the heart and soul of this recording. "Sekunjalo" is reminiscent of Masekela's 1968 pop hit "Grazing in the Grass." Sonically, Beatin' Aroun de Bush soars from start to finish thanks to Richard Druz's glistening production. ~ Jim Newsom
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Jazz - Released June 1, 2009 | World Connection

Hugh Masakela's recordings in his golden years have been much more rooted in his South African heritage than the commercialized music he played in his younger days. Thankfully, that trend continues with this very fine effort that has him playing his own original material, his storied silver flugelhorn with all the effusive joy his homeland can now proclaim, and singing on every selection, telling tales of renewal, resurrection, and revived positivity. Teamed with bassist, guitarist, and producer Erik Paliani, Masakela is strutting through the villages of Capetown and Johannesburg like a pied piper, spreading the word of his convictions, and what the title Phola represents, a force for change through healing. There's substantial brass work from Masakela here, as well as R&B, and even electronics as heard on the opener, Paliani's "Mwanayu Wakula," a light township dance jam from 6/8 time to funk fusion with group vocal chants. Masakela penned the tribute piece, "Ghana," which is a straight kwela dance emphasizing his vocals over instrumentals, as well as the freedom song for the people "Bring It Back Home" where his singing is grittier à la Harry Belafonte. "Moz" jumps out a bit with its unison horn melody alongside clarinetist Stewart Levine strutting and swaying, while "Sonnyboy" is the story of a young man's attempt at piano lessons, asking that the teacher needs to "set him free, let him fly away." Most of these pieces are sung by the leader in English, a bit strained during "Weather," but in African dialect for "Hunger," where he also plays the most lead flugelhorn. The band does Jon Lucien's "The Joke of Life" with the light Fender Rhodes electric piano of Arthur Tshabalala among five percussionists in a commercial vein, but not overtly. Every grouping is different per track, the pacing of the program is even and never jarring, and there's a sense of purpose that prevails throughout. In the decade of the 2000s, Hugh Masakela has come into his own more than at any other time in his long career, and Phola is a shining example that he's still in his prime, making excellent music with no turning back. ~ Michael G. Nastos
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Pop/Rock - Released October 23, 2001 | Columbia

This release is superb, but also a little confusing -- it is, as its packaging suggests, a magnificent retrospective of a global jazz legend, despite the fact that it must, of necessity, leave some holes in a 14-song selection intended to sum up a 40-year career. What isn't clear until one opens it, however, is that little of what's here -- none of it, in fact -- consists of the original recordings; rather, these are re-recordings done for Columbia in much more recent times. And that's not necessarily bad, as Masekela has lost little of his fire over the ensuing four decades and did get to do these tracks under ideal conditions. The result is not so much a retrospective as a reconsideration of various highlights of his career, as he is heard on such 1960s-vintage pieces as "Grazing in the Grass" or "Strawberries" at the end of the 20th century. The sound is excellent and the annotation is very thorough on a track-by-track basis. ~ Bruce Eder
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1965 | Verve

Masekela as a young trumpeter from the mid-'60s. Rare, but clearly his best format and playing. ~ Michael G. Nastos
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Jazz - Released November 3, 2017 | Emarcy

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Jazz - Released October 27, 2017 | Emarcy

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Jazz - Released May 8, 2015 | Sony Music Special Projects

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Jazz - Released April 24, 2015 | Sony Music Special Projects

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Jazz - Released November 2, 2009 | Columbia

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Jazz - Released November 2, 2009 | Columbia

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Jazz - Released January 1, 2008 | Verve

Released as a double LP on Chisa/Blue Thumb in 1972, Hugh Masekela's Home Is Where the Music Is marked an accessible but sharp detour from his more pop-oriented jazz records of the '60s. Masekela was chasing a different groove altogether. He was looking to create a very different kind of fusion, one that involved the rhythms and melodies of his native South Africa, and included the more spiritual, soul-driven explorations occurring in American music at the time on labels like Strata East, Tribe, and Black Jazz as well as those laid down by Gato Barbieri on Bob Thiele's Flying Dutchman imprint. The South African and American quintet he assembled for the date is smoking. It includes the mighty saxophonist Dudu Pakwana and drummer Makaya Ntshoko, both South African exiles; they were paired with American pianist Larry Willis and bassist Eddie Gomez, creating a wonderfully balanced, groove-oriented ensemble. Produced by Stewart Levine and composer Caiphus Semenya, this is a near mythic date that was reviewed favorably but infrequently back in the day. The ten tunes here range between five and 11 minutes; half were written by Semenya, Masekela and Willis wrote one apiece, and the balance were covers -- including a gorgeous arrangement of Miriam Makeba's "Uhomé." "Part of the Whole"opens the set with Willis on Fender Rhodes piano, with a lazy rolling blues groove that is equal parts soul-jazz and South African folk melody. The horns enter behind him playing a vamp before they ramp it up in the chorus twice before Pakwana takes his solo against the rhythm section. Willis' sense of time is indomitable and the funky breaks laid down by Ntshoko are beautifully balanced by Gomez's woody tone. Pakwana wails emotionally, swerving between post-bop and more free explorations. Masekela answers his solo on his flugelhorn in tight, hard blues lines. His flight remains inside with the rhythm section offering this deep groove-laden backing. It's merely a taste of things to come however, as the following cut, Sekou Toure's "Minawa," makes clear. Willis opens it with his own solo backed by the rhythm section; his touch is deft, light, elegant, and deeply melodic. It feels like a different band until the horns enter. When they do, they open that intricate lyric line into waves of passion and restraint. Semenya's "The Big Apple," feels like a tune written by Ramsey Lewis with a horn section backing him. It's all bass note groove, hypnotic repetition, and soulful blues before the horns get to move around one another and solo above Willis' beautiful fills on the grand piano. This set marks the first appearance of Willis' tune "Inner Crisis," the title track of his debut solo LP which would appear a year later on Groove Merchant -- only this time with an acoustic piano intro before moving to the Rhodes. This track is a funky spiritual jazz classic and this version may be better than his -- largely due to this killer horn section. Other standouts include Kippie Moeketsi's loping "Blues for Huey," the ballad "Nomali," and Masekela's knotty, joyous "Maseru." In sum, Home Is Where the Music Is, is a stone spiritual soul-jazz classic, that melds the sound of numerous emerging jazz schools in its pursuit of musical excellence; it succeeds on all counts and is one of the greatest recordings in Hugh Masekela's long career. In a year full of amazing titles, this is still a standout. ~ Thom Jurek
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Jazz - Released June 20, 2005 | Shanachie

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Jazz - Released June 20, 2005 | Shanachie