Dudu Pukwana – Black Horse 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.
Among the recordings found in 1201 Music’s vaults was this unissued session, which included names for all the songs but no list of personnel or recording date, though it seems likely that it was taped in the early 1970s with some of Pukwana’s usual collaborators. Most of Pukwana’s pieces are built upon simple riffs, yet they allow for plenty of spirited improvising by the musicians. “Hidden Spirits” is an upbeat dance, with Pukwana possibly overdubbing several instruments, including alto and soprano saxes, keyboards and more. “Ducking Darkness” initially has an R&B flavor, with African rhythms and spirited horns, though the pianist quickly stretches into free territory with his exploratory solo, along with wailing alto sax. “Blessing Light” is a bit of a switch, being straight-ahead hard bop with potent trumpet, soprano sax and trombone solos over the steady rhythm section. The lively “Black Horse” is a breezy African dance vehicle, with Pukwana’s playing a subdued soprano sax solo over the surging rhythm section, followed by a extended penny whistle solo (likely by the leader as well). It’s surprising that this memorable session lay forgotten and unissued for so long.