July 26, 2009 – 4:17 am

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Altena, Germany 1972 [no label, 1CD]

Live at Balver Hohle, Altena, Germany, June 24, 1972. Very good FM recording.

For 23 years (from 1970 till 1994), the Brotherhood of Breath gave world jazz a recognizable face. Begun by pianist Chris McGregor’s South African jazz band, the Blue Notes, who played bebop fused with township jive and free jazz, the band migrated to London in the mid-’60s with the Brotherhood of Breath forming in 1970 with a 13-piece big band.

Those early gigs became milestones of the London jazz scene and the band was a resume for the leading lights of English jazz - free saxophonist Evan Parker, trombonist Annie Whitehead, and sax player Steve Williamson, the latter two seeing their stars rising in the ’80s.

But the originators were McGregor’s South African mates - drummer Louis Moholo, bassist Harry Miller and alto saxophonist Dudu Pukwana. Here then is an early radio broadcast of a 1972 concert, featuring the band in its prime. Beginning with the lugubrious Call, with its mournful trumpet and cascading piano, the band hits its stride with Andromeda (taken from their debut album, Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath), with its sprightly township jive.

Call is distinctive for its free playing with all the horn players intersecting the waterfall of McGregor’s piano notes. Whereas Andromeda’s polyrhythms are spirited and joyful, evoking a refusal of South Africa’s apartheid policy of hatred.

As the late McGregor once said: “The music I grew up with in the Transkei is a very communal music, and I have clear memories of the beauty of things directed toward a group… In the West people talk as if… jazz equals improvisation. But for me that begs too many questions. I have this strong imaginative reference to African village music and the thing I know about that music is that it has a strong centre… It’s not a composition but it’s in the culture of the people - they know the moves…

“So the key isn’t in improvisation, yet the music is very alive - there’s such a mix of old and new, solo and group… So, in African music, improvisation isn’t meaningful in essence. Creativity is, but that’s something else. That’s what the Brotherhood of Breath is about, creating in groups. And I find I can accept the orthodox disciplines of jazz more easily now, because we no longer have those community traditions but we still need that community feeling. And if it means a certain amount of structuring to create, like, a kind of instant tradition, instant reference points, then that’s OK…” - Philip Cheah

Thanks to jeffgmorris for sharing these tracks on the Dime site. jeffgmorris also noted: “Track 4 may be from a different source… making the Altena location improbable. Also, I think there’s a second tenor sax (next to Windo, that is), which could be either Alan Skidmore or Evan Parker.”

Note: Click on the highlighted tracks to download the MP3s (these are high quality MP3s - sample rate of 192 kbps). As far as we can ascertain, these tracks have never been officially released on CD.

These tracks are no longer available for download.. Kindly email us at [email protected] if you want to download them at a later date.

Track 01. Call 8:44
Track 02. Andromeda 9:13
Track 03. Think Of Something 14:19
Track 04. (untitled) 4:14

Harry Beckett
Marc Charig
Malcolm Griffith
Nick Evans
Dudu Pukwana
Mike Osborne
Gary Windo
Chris McGregor
Harry Miller
Louis Moholo

Click on the link to order Brotherhood Of Breath albums.

  1. 2 Responses to “BROTHERHOOD OF BREATH - ALTENA, GERMANY 1972”

  2. hey bigo, now you’re talking. more avant! i’m at my sister’s house, but i will get this when i wake up in the morning. then i need to backup another 4 gigs worth of music.

    i like the brotherhood of breath show i got last week. played it twice so far. heavy stuff. gunter hampel is a nice one too.

    i talked to matt mitchell who is a composer, improviser and piano player from philly, pa, and he said they show he played with mary halvorson at the stone, nyc in jan is out there. if one sees it, please post it here! check matt out. he has a myspace.


    By Ed Saad on Jul 26, 2009

  3. Hi BigO,

    thanks again for great music.

    Greetings, Tom

    By Tom on Jul 26, 2009

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