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Jazz - Released October 28, 2016 | Universal Music (Pty) Ltd.

Distinctions Songlines Five-star review

Africa - Released May 7, 2002 | Indieblu Music


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

Jazz - Released June 1, 2009 | World Connection

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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

Jazz - Released January 1, 2004 | Blue Thumb

Released to coincide with Hugh Masekela's autobiography of the same name, Still Grazing picks up the Masekela story from Verve's summary of the best of the MGM albums, The Lasting Impression of Ooga-Booga, and runs through the Uni and Blue Thumb material. The 1966 tracks are from The Emancipation of Hugh Masekela, where the trumpeter mixes his florid horn calls and vocals with variations of the boogaloo, township jive, soul-jazz, and in Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Felicidade," a slight pinch of bossa nova into a hip, brightly colored cuisine that no one else was attempting at the time. As in the MGM days, Masekela is obliged to cover the hit tunes of the day, although "Up, Up, and Away" has more life and jazz licks than those earlier attempts. 1968's "The Promise of a Future" was the real commercial breakthrough -- thanks to the out-of-the-blue success of the cowbell-beating "Grazing in the Grass," which improbably rose to the number one slot on Top 40 radio in those enlightened times. That triumphant track would be Masekela's last trip to the Top 40, whereupon he promptly used the exposure to shine a harsh light on what was going on in his homeland ("Gold") and America in 1968 ("Mace and Grenades"). The CD then jumps to a percolating, Echoplexed "Languta" from a 1973 session in Lagos, Nigeria, before concluding with a withering account of the South African coal-mining trains ("Stimela"). The package is given extra credibility by the original producer of these tracks, Stewart Levine, who compiled the album and also wrote a fond set of reminiscences. Many of these premonitions of today's world music scene have been gone for decades, and it's good to have at least some of them back in circulation again. ~ Richard S. Ginell

Jazz - Released February 16, 2018 | Universal Music (Pty) Ltd.


Jazz - Released May 6, 1999 | Columbia


Jazz - Released January 1, 2008 | Verve Records

Released as a double LP on Chisa/Blue Thumb in 1972, Hugh Masekela's Home Is Where the Music Is marked a 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

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


Jazz - Released May 18, 1999 | RCA Victor


Jazz - Released April 1, 2011 | Legacy Recordings


Pop - Released January 1, 1968 | Geffen

It features African and English vocals in an assertive and roughhewn brassy setting. ~ Hank Davis

Pop/Rock - Released September 23, 1999 | Columbia


Jazz - Released January 1, 1998 | Verve Reissues

No other work during Hugh Masekela's long and fruitful career blended all of his interests -- jazz, funk, pop, Afrobeat, and R&B, plus a little Latin and a lot of disco -- into such an exciting mixture as 1975's The Boy's Doin' It, his first record for Casablanca. Influenced by Kool & the Gang as well as the growing tendency for Latin artists (like Joe Bataan) to cross over toward contemporary dance trends (and labels), Masekela recruited a few veterans from the Ghanian highlife band Hedzoleh Soundz -- with whom he'd worked with on one album before. Recorded in Lagos, Nigeria and dedicated to Fela Kuti, The Boy's Doin' It has six extended jams, each of which does an excellent job of playing off deep grooves against ensemble vocals and catchy hooks, with plenty of room for Masekela's own trumpet and every note polished to a fine '70s sheen. It didn't matter what type of music fan you were: pop, disco, funk, world music, and any but the most hidebound jazz purist could get into these tracks. ~ John Bush

Jazz - Released January 1, 1996 | Capitol Records, LLC

In patching together a program of Hugh Masekela's MGM recordings onto a single overstuffed CD, Verve took the original The Americanization of Ooga Booga album, leapfrogged over its successor, Next Album, and coupled it with the third MGM LP, The Lasting Impressions of Hugh Masekela. That made good sense since the two albums originate from the same live date at the Village Gate, recorded when the trumpeter was still in the process of making an impression in the U.S. Masekela is full of wild, sputtering, high-rolling exuberance, developing some of his familiar signature trumpet riffs, freely exploring South African rhythms, harmonic sequences, and chants, and mixing them with soul-jazz at a time when hardly anyone else would bother (the mixture of township jive and jazz works especially well on "U-Dwi"). He also ties into Brazil with a fine rendition of Jorge Ben's "Mas Que Nada" and assimilates Coltrane into his bloodstream with a tribute called "Mixolydia." In general, the Americanization tracks are the picks of the crop (Impressions, after all, had been compiled in 1968 to cash in on Masekela's surprise number one single, "Grazing in the Grass"). With the rhythm section of Larry Willis on piano, Harold Dotson on bass, and Henry Jenkins on drums, this music still holds up marvelously today. ~ Richard S. Ginell

Jazz - Released January 1, 2006 | Universal Music Enterprises


World - Released January 31, 2012 | Razor & Tie - Concord