Black Heroes, the new solo piano album from Tete Mbambisa, takes its title from a composition dedicated to three great figures of the struggle years – Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela. This, the first commercially released solo piano recording by Tete Mbambisa, offers listeners the chance to hear one of South Africa’s greatest jazz pianists in the solo format.
The composition ‘Black Heroes’ was originally written for Mbambisa’s iconic album Tete’s Big Sound which was released by Rashid Valley’s legendary As Shams label in 1976, a few months before the June 16th Uprising. Although Bra Tete is quite clear that his music is composed as music, rather than as political statement, he is also clear that both the title and dedication are significant and that as an artist he is also part of the wider community. As Vusi Khumalo wrote in the original liner notes for Tete’s Big Sound: ‘Tete Mbambisa brings to the outside world this sad, sacred story, and puts the Black artist in the forefront.’
Tete Mbambisa has performed and recorded with many of the giants of South African jazz (Bazil ‘Manenberg’ Coetzee, Johnny Dyani, Lulu Gontsana, Dick Khoza, Early Mabuza, Duku Makasi, Hugh Masekela, Nik Moyake, Ezra Ngcukana, Winston Mankunku Ngozi, Dudu Pukwana, Barney Rachabane et al), and is one of the very few South African jazz musicians that can claim to have played with the three jazz generations of the last fifty years. He featured in Pascale Lamche’s 2003 movie Sophiatown, and his compositions have been recorded by The Blue Notes, Adam Glasser, Chris McGregor, McCoy Mrubata and Brian Thusi. His work as a pianist, vocalist, composer and arranger can also be found on many anthologies of South African jazz.
Bra Tete first came to public attention after recording four sides with his vocal group, The Four Yanks, for Gallo Africa in 1962. Black Heroes places Mbambisa’s Four Yanks classic ‘Umsenge’ alongside recent compositions such as ‘One For Asa’, but it is the compositions ‘Dembese’ and ‘Stay Cool’ – along with his arrangement of the traditional song ‘Mbombela’ – that foreground Mbambisa’s unique ability to infuse mbaqanga with contemporary jazz. The unfettered musical space a solo pianist has to explore ideas, combined with the clarity of the Black Heroes recording, provides the clearest insight yet into Tete Mbambisa’s creativity. With Black Heroes Tete Mbambisa celebrates fifty years at the forefront of South African jazz, and the reason for the enduring popularity of his music remains abundantly clear to those with an ear for harmonic sophistication and rhythmic drive.
Recorded on 14 and 15 August 2010 at the Fismer Hall in Stellenbosch, and edited in York (UK) and Mdantsane (SA), Black Heroes was mastered at Skye Mastering by Denis Blackham (mastering engineer for reissues of Chris McGregor’s Very Urgent, Our Prayer, and Up To Earth).
The CD contains ten tracks all of which are Mbambisa originals (with the exception of ‘Mbombela’). The package includes a 24 page full-colour booklet featuring previously unpublished photographs, a complete discography, and extensive notes.
Additional material will also be available at ev2.co.uk/jisa/records/
released 19 April 2012
All compositions and arrangements by Tete Mbambisa except ‘Mbombela’ (traditional, arranged Mbambisa).