Exposé Online banner

Assagai — Zimbabwe
(Keyhole KHCD9012, 1971/2014, CD)

by Peter Thelen, Published 2014-04-11

Zimbabwe Cover art

In the early 70s with the international success of Osibisa, there was plenty of record company interest in signing other expat African bands, and Assagai was the beneficiary of Vertigo’s interest, but by Zimbabwe, the second of their two releases, the band had switched to the Philips label. The members of the band were originally mostly from South Africa, and three of the members – drummer Louis Moholo, trumpeter / flautist Mongezi Feza, and alto saxophonist / pianist Dudu Pukwana had previously played with Chris McGregor in the Blue Notes in the 60s, and would also be members of McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath from 1970 onwards, which gave Assagai a decidedly jazzy flavor. Following some personnel changes between the two albums (including the departure of guitarist and primary composer Fred Coker), the remaining members were percussionist Smiley De Jonnes, Fred Fredericks on tenor and baritone sax, Bizo Mngqikana on tenor sax, and Martha Mdenge on vocals. Also, the three members of Jade Warrior (Jon Field, Glyn Havard and Tony Duhig) were enlisted as a backing band on both of Assagai’s albums, and each member contributed one composition each to this effort. One track is credited to Pukwana, and the remaining four are credited to Mdenge. Right out of the gate, they launch into a jammin’ but jazzy version of Jade Warrior’s “Barazinbar” with the full sax and brass section leading the way, flanked by walls of conga drums. From there the album bounces back and forth between more African sounding vocal pieces by Mdenge and fiery jazz-rock tunes, the latter including Pukwana’s “Dalani” and “Kinzambi” by guitarist Tony Duhig. “La La” is a gentle pastoral vocal piece with only flute and guitar backing that evokes stillness and beauty. The ethnic flavors presented throughout this album are powerful and the balance between rock, jazz variations, and African elements work nicely to keep things interesting all the way through. A solid recommendation.


Filed under: Reissues, 2014 releases, 1971 recordings

Related artist(s): Jade Warrior, Assagai

Latest news

2018-07-31
Tomasz Stańko RIP – Tomasz Stańko, one of the greats of Eastern European jazz, has died at the age of 76. Stańko's career started in Krzysztof Komeda's quintet, where he contributed trumpet from 1963-1967, when he formed his own group. He worked extensively with Edward Vesala, Don Cherry, Zbigniew Seifert, Chico Freeman, Howard Johnson, Cecil Taylor, and many others. Many of his recordings have been released by ECM, an association that began in the mid-70s. » Read more

2018-07-09
Soft Machine Set to Release New Music – It's been 50 years since The Soft Machine changed the face of music with their first album. Their blend of psychedelic rock and jazz was unique, and while the band went through many changes before disbanding in 1981 — by which time there were no original members remaining — they remained an innovative force with a style all their own. » Read more

2018-07-01
7d Surfaces Happy Rhodes Back Catalog – We've covered singer Happy Rhodes before, both for her solo work and recently with The Security Project, but her 11 albums have been hard to track down. Until now. 7d features high-quality downloads of all her releases, and several of them are also available on CD. » Read more

2018-06-25
Fred Chalenor RIP – We have news of another sad passing in the world of creative music. Bassist Fred Chalenor, whose creativity featured on albums by Tone Dogs, Caveman Shoestore, and many more, died on June 23, 2018 after a long battle with Alzheimer's. Tributes have poured in from the many musicians and fans whose lives he touched. » Read more

2018-06-13
Jon Hiseman RIP – One of the great drummers of the rock era has died. Jon Hiseman was a veteran of such ground-breaking groups as Colosseum (I and II), Tempest, John Mayal's Bleusbreakers, and was a founding member of the innovative large band United Jazz + Rock Ensemble. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Edward Ka-Spel - A Long Red Ladder to the Moon – A Long Red Ladder to the Moon is the latest in a long string of EKS solo releases. Considering Edward’s cassette, EP, LP, and CD output since 1984, this is something like number 30 and it is like a...  (2006) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues