Ubaagile - 8.00
Diamond Express - 8.13
Madodana - 7.52
Tete And Barbs In My Mind - 4.34
Dudu Pukwana was born in 1938 in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Initially he studied piano but switched to alto sax in his late teens. Chris McGregor invited him to join his interracial sextet The Blue Notes, but due to difficulties from police in his homeland, within a few years he left to play elsewhere in Europe. He would later appear in McGregor’s subsequent band Brotherhood of Breath, along with appearing with the Dutch avant garde pianist Misha Mengelberg and drummer Han Bennink. He also worked in the bands of fellow South Africans, including trumpeter Hugh Masekela and trombonist Jonas Gwangwa’s African Explosion. In addition to groups he led under his own name, Pukwana founded the bands Assagai, Spear and Zila. Dudu Pukwana passed away on June 30, 1990 in London.
The album <I>Diamond Express</I>, which was also issued under the name <I>Ubaqile<I> on at least one LP edition, is a wide-ranging blend of South African music, funk, bop and avant-garde jazz. The core band includes Pukwana, keyboardist Frank Roberts, trumpeter Mongezi Feza, guitarist Lucky Ranku, and bassist Ernest Mothole. The first three tracks have electric piano prominent in the mix. Pukwana makes a late entrance to the funky “Ubaqile (See Saw)” and plays rather conventionally compared to his usual free jazz explorations. “Diamond Express” has a repetitious theme in the manner of Caribbean music, with the horns gradually breaking away but not venturing far from the motif. It’s back to funk, though in an up-tempo setting, for “Madodana (The Young Ones).” The sextet takes its time setting up the theme before the horns make their entrance, though Pukwana is a bit more adventurous in their respective solos than in the first two songs and Moholo takes a turn into Brazilian music with his impressive solo.
A different lineup appears on “Tete and Barbs in Mind,” a curious mix of avant-garde firestorms with a subdued gospel-like unison line, adding English musicians Keith Tippett (piano), Elton Dean (saxello), Nick Evans (trombone) and bassist Victor Ntoni. The final track, “Bird Lives,” is explosive acoustic bop with all cylinders firing together, with the leader’s wild alto sax flights and Feza’s peppy muted trumpet soaring over the driving rhythm section, while Roberts switches to grand piano for a bluesy couple of choruses.Ken Dryden