Monday, June 18, 2007

Cape Town Love by Sathima Bea Benjamin

Cape Town Love is an album that Sathima recorded in 1999 upon a return visit to, you guessed, Cape Town. Interestingly, the track choices are arguably the least "South African" in her recorded collection, comprising classic jazz standards like "You Go to My Head" and "Body and Soul."

However, as the group performing it is comprised of South Africans, some of the flavoring in the music is distinctly Capetownian...take the rather exotic bass intro on "I Only Have Eyes for You" followed by the ghoema rhythm.

We were going to re-issue this album in 2006 (it had never been released in the US), but opted to go for the compilation album SongSpirit, instead. I don't regret that decision (in fact, I think SongSpirit is damn amazing), but I have to concede there is a wonderful charm to Cape Town Love that I think people would have liked.

Consequently, we've decided to release it digitally, so starting June 19, you can download it via iTunes, and all those fun services.

The album, as mentioned, was recorded in Cape Town with pianist Henry February, bassist Basil Moses (whom you can hear on Musical Echoes), and drummer Vince Pavitt. Of the quartet, Henry February is the standout, for several reasons.

Imagine this - picture American jazz if, say, Fletcher Henderson, had never been recorded. This is the situation with Henry. He was a generation before Sathima, and was a pioneer of Cape Town jazz. However, due to the performance restrictions under apartheid, and the rather exploitative nature of the SA music business at the time, he refused to record. Consequently, this recording is his only documented performance, as he sadly passed away in 2005.

Rather than have me go on about how Henry sounds on the album, I'll leave it to journalist Gwen Ansell..."listen to Sathima Bea Benjamin's 1999 album Cape Town Love and you'll hear a master: stylish, elegant, and with a tender feel for both harmony and space."