For over 30 years, Tbone Paxton and RJ Spangler have been exploring the beauty of South African jazz, inspired by such artists as Hugh Masekala, Miriam Makeba and Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath. We began this journey with the Sun Messengers Band in 1980, followed by the Sun Sounds Orchestra, which was awarded Best Jazz Recording at the Detroit Music Awards in 1991 for the CD “Open the Doors (Eastlawn Records). We then recorded a two-CD collection with their PD9 Township Jazz Project; “The Duderstadt Session/Live at the Scarab Club” (Eastlawn Records), which won a Detroit Music Award for Outstanding Jazz Recording in 2015.
This is our new project, the follow-up effort to last year’s vocal jazz recording featuring Tbone, “Back in Your Own Backyard,” on the Detroit Music Factory imprint. We have chosen to start with a collection of compositions by pianist/composer Abdullah Ibrahim, who was formerly known as Dollar Brand. The band is built around drummer Sean Perlmutter and bassist Jeff Cuny, who arranged all the songs for this recording. To round out the rhythm section, we tapped Phil Hale, the pianist from the Township Jazz Project. Phil is well known around Detroit as a strong jazz player and for touring the world with blues diva Thornetta Davis.
Also from the Township Jazz Project is tenor man Dan Bennett, a powerhouse player who toured and recorded with the Afrobeat band NOMO. On alto sax and flute is Rafael Leafar, a Kresge Fellow who has performed with Reggie Workman, Robert Hurst and Wendell Harrison. Rafael offers much improvisational gusto to the proceedings.
Coming up musically in the ’70s and ’80s, RJ and Tbone were able to see, hear and even meet Hugh Masekala and Abdullah Ibrahim. Hugh is no longer with us. We are lucky that Abdullah, born in 1934, is still active, but the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master rarely comes through town. This is a way to keep the music alive on US shores and beyond.
Our seven-piece band brings plenty of energy and Detroit soul to the music. South African music has always spoken to us and we wish to perform this music as part of our musical contribution to the world.
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