Wax in the Attic: Roots (Barney Rachabane) – Roots
The rare 1975 self-titled debut album from South African Progressive Jazz band Roots is reissued for the first time by Frederiksberg Records. Roots was led by the master saxophonist and the legend of the South African Jazz Scene, Barney Rachabane, known for blending jazz and funk with signature South African motifs.
In 1975, Racahbane teamed up with trumpeter Dennis Mpale and fellow saxophonist Duke Makasi to lead an ensemble named Roots. The reedmen were accompanied by a formidable young rhythm section comprised of Sipho Gumede on bass, Jabu Nkosi on keys and Peter Morake on drums. Navigating the poles of popular township soul and avant-garde Afro-jazz that characterized the South African music landscape at the time, Roots emerged with a crossover sound that would later open the door for the jazz fusion experiments of Pacific Express and Spirits Rejoice in the late-70s.
The album was produced by Almon Memela and originally released on the Highway Soul label. Despite commercial ambitions, the Roots ensemble was short-lived but did manage a second recorded offering called Deeper Roots before disbanding.
Rachabane summarises Roots music: “We were just doing original music by a group of individual musicians. We just put out what we had. Not just one direction. As you can hear, the music is quite diverse”.
Listen to Rootsrare self-titled debut album:
Rachabane was part of the influential 1950s Dorkay House scene among the likes of South African jazz notables Dudu Pukwana and Gideon Nxumalo and later appeared on Chris McGregor’s iconic album The African Sound in 1963. Rachabane’s career would take off in the 1980s through his participation in Paul Simon’s Graceland album in 1986 and its subsequent world tours. Paul Simon called him "one of the most soulful saxophone players in the world.” Barney Rachabane was also recording with other South African greats jazz stars Hugh Masekela and Abdullah Ibrahim.
The reissue of Roots pays homage to the recently retired veteran of South African jazz and contributes to the growing interest in and documentation of the story of South African jazz. Highly recommended as a lesson in the history of South African jazz, but mostly because it's a wonderful music
Watch below video for Rootsrare self-titled debut album:
Other wicked songs and projects worth checking this week:
Telemakus - Sunray Junonia
Azmari - Samā'ī
Adrian Younge - Revolutionize
Pino Palladino, Blake Mills - Just Wrong
Dominique Fils-Aimé - You Left Me
Jon Batiste - CRY
Gianni Brezzo - Flower Rain
Bear Garden - New Kid
Sinitus Tempo - Above the Clouds
Olivier St.Louis - M.O.T.H. (Matters Of The Heartless)