Brotherhood of Rhythm
Much to his irritation, South African drummer Moholo´s name, recently amended to Moholo-Moholo, will forever be connected to the legendary South African jazz band the Brotherhood of Breath. Comprised mainly of expatriate South Africans based in London, the band formed in the late 60s is revered for its unique combination of daring arrangements, impetuous improvisation and, for the time, radically new South African influences. It’s contributing members constituted a who´s who of British jazz – Harry Harry Miller, Mongezi Feza, Dudu Pukwana, Lol Coxhill, Evan Parker, Paul Rutherford, Harry Beckett, Marc Charig, Alan Skidmore, Mike Osborne, Elton Dean, Nick Evans, and John Surman. He notes that both ‘John Lennon and Frank Zappa had an interest’ in collaborating with him – however, he ‘turned them down’.
The pianist Chris McGregor and Moholo-Moholo chose to play together in the mixed race band Blue Notes in 1964, a decision which was a dangerous option at the time of the apartheid regime. The pair was exiled and ended up in London in 1966. The early work of the Blue Notes was a fairly traditional American jazz ´post-bop´ style, which gave no indication of the hybrid which would later develop. In London, the Blue Notes evolved into the now-legendary Brotherhood of Breath. The band recorded two studio albums and a few live recordings, and it were these recordings which set the benchmark for the newly-developed genre.
Following the perhaps-inevitable dissolution of the partnership, Moholo-Moholo teamed up with the extraordinary pianist Keith Tippet and Harry Miller, his bassist bandmate in the Brotherhood of Breath, This trio were much in demand as a rhythm section, and also participated in various ‘Brotherhood of Breath-style’ bands in the UK, including Tippet’s Centipede, the London Improvisers Orchestra and the Dedication Orchestra – the latter band devoted to recreating the original Blue Notes and Brotherhood repertoire.
After spending most of his performing life based in London, he returned to South Africa in 2005. He formed another version of the Dedication Orchestra, snappily called Hear Our Heart’s Vibrations, which performs the repertoire of the earlier Dedication Orchestra. He hopes to ‘breath some new life in to South African jazz’ with this line-up.
A recent project is a recording with the Italian Canto General Orchestra, performing compositions from the Brotherhood period, notably a suite from Keith Tippett´s 1971 composition and recording ‘Septober Energy’, written for Centipede.
Foxes Fox — Naan Tso (Psi, 2004);
Louis Moholo-Moholo/Evan Parker/ Pule Pheto/Gibo Pheto/Barry Guy — Bush Fire (Ogun, 1995);
Cecil Taylor/Louis Moholo — Remembrance (FMP, 1988);
Louis Moholo — Spirits Rejoice! (Ogun, 1978);
Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath — Live at Willisau (Ogun, 1973);
Mike Osborne — Outback (Turtle-FMR, 1970)
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Article on the artist
Article from the May 2005 issue of ImproJazz (no. 115), the French magazine specialising in improvised music