Otoroku is proud to present the first vinyl reissue of Blue Notes for Johnny - a defining statement by one of the greatest ensembles in the history of jazz. Recorded in mid-1987 by Blue Notes - then reduced to the trio of Dudu Pukwana on alto sax, Louis Moholo-Moholo on drums and Chris McGregor on piano - it encounters the band 25 years after their founding embarking on an inward meditation through collective music making dedicated to Johnny Dyani, their former bandmate and friend.
Blue Notes were founded in Cape Town in 1962, and stand among the most important ensembles in the history of jazz. Artistically brilliant and groundbreaking - gathering, within a few short years, a devoted following that included Don Cherry, Steve Lacy, Abdullah Ibrahim, Dexter Gordon, Kenny Drew, Keith Tippett, Evan Parker, John Stevens and numerous others - they were also the first widely visible multiracial band in South Africa.
As a mixed race band under apartheid, this group of friends and like-minded artists - Chris McGregor, Mongezi Feza, Dudu Pukwana, Nikele Moyake, Johnny Dyani and Louis Moholo-Moholo - existed within a context that viewed their mere existence as a dangerous and subversive act. In 1964 they joined an exodus of musicians leaving for Europe and eventually settled in London the following year. Sadly, not long after arriving and facing continued economic peril, the group buckled. Johnny Dyani left to join Don Cherry’s band. Moholo-Moholo and Dyani followed suit and joined Steve Lacy on tour, and the remaining members morphed into a number of ensembles that eventually grew to become Chris McGregor's Brotherhood Of Breath.
Following the death of Mongezi Feza in 1975 the remaining members of the group had come back together to record Blue Notes For Mongezi, reigniting a sporadic period of activity over the coming years. Following the untimely passing of Johnny Dyani in late 1986, the last three members of the original line-up - McGregor, Pukwana and Moholo-Moholo - reformed to pay tribute to yet another of their fallen brothers.
Blue Notes for Johnny, the group’s second musical memorial to a band member, incorporates a considerably broader range of touchstone and practices than its predecessor, nodding toward the band’s foundations in be-bop and post-bop without abandoning where they had journeyed along the way. Internalising equal elements of hard-bop, modalism, and free improvisation, it is a startling creative statement, imbued with a tension that renders an equally radical and sophisticated challenge; a furious tide - slow in pace and it slow to reveal itself - masquerading in gentler forms.
A celebration and a memorial. Joyous and tragic. A real time resurrection of personal experience, Blue Notes for Johnny dodges, dances, and transforms across its two sides, refusing to be nailed down. As the trio pushes against each other, bristling tonal and rhythmic collisions leave the impression that something is bound to explode, without ever fully letting go.
Blue Notes for Johnny’s memorialisation is unwittingly doubled by capturing the final time that the Blue Notes would come together in the studio. Both Dudu Pukwana and Chris McGregor would pass away three years later in 1990, leaving Moholo-Moholo - who continues to carve a groundbreaking trajectory across the world of jazz - as the last surviving member. The album remains as a journey between an imaged future and the beginning of it all. Six friends meeting and communing through sound. Six friends who had triumphed against the odds, becoming some of the greatest creative voices of their generation. Six friends who were five, then four, and then three, before they were done. Friends who never failed, in whatever form, to come together and play. It is a story begun 60 years ago that remains just as prescient today.
DUDU PUKWANA / alto sax
CHRIS McGREGOR / piano
LOUIS MOHOLO / drums
This 2022 re-issue has been made with permission and in association with Ogun records. Transferred from the original masters and featuring an exact reproduction of the original artwork. Remastered by Giuseppe Ielasi. All music by the Blue Notes. All music published by Ogun Publishing Co. Cover design by Ogun.
All music by the Blue Notes. All music published by Ogun Publishing Co. Cover design by Ogun. Front cover photograph and photograph of Mongezi Feza by Geroge Hallet. Blue Notes photograph by Jurg. Back cover photograph by George Hallet and Peter Sinclair. Xhosa translation by Z. Pallo Jordan. Produced by Keith Beal and Chris McGregor. Ogun Recording would like to thank John Martyn for his assistance in making this album possible. Reissue for OTOROKU produced by Abby Thomas. Transferred from the original masters by Shaun Crook at Lockdown Studios. Remastered by Giuseppe Ielasi. Layout for reissue by Maja Larrson.