Verse 1+


Restocked, last copies. Superb and super-rare South African jazz featuring Hugh Masekela and Dollar Brand. 500 only pressed for the world. The Jazz Epistles were not only South Africa's first bebop band, but were also, rumor has it, the first black South African group to release an album. Very few copies of that album Jazz Epistle Verse 1 were made in 1960 (issued on the Continental label), and even fewer survive today. At the time members of the band were very active in the burgeoning South African jazz scene and had also made several recordings for John Mehegan, a self-taught white American jazz pianist and tutor who toured South Africa that same year. Mehegan soon found himself in trouble with the South African authorities for fraternizing with black musicians. The Jazz Epistles broke up soon after the Verse 1 recordings, with all members being offered work touring Europe with the hit African jazz musical King Kong, along with the Manhattan Brothers and vocalist Miriam Makeba. This tour came at a time when Sophiatown, the black suburb of white Johannesburg where the band lived and played, was about to be demolished. This, along with The Sharpeville Massacre marked the beginnings of forced segregation, violence, repression and a most turbulent time in their country -- a time when African arts would not be tolerated. Thankfully, the touring members of the Jazz Epistles found freedom, enlightenment, appreciation and the guidance of European musicians to further their musical careers. So in some ways, South African jazz flourished for the next few decades, but only in other countries. Listening now to these recordings we hear that the band's early mix of African and American jazz ideas, rhythms and swingin' tempos make their sound both unique and prescient, and can now be appreciated as a cornerstone and most important landmark in South African sounds. This unique vinyl release brings together selections from the classic Verse 1 album as well as other rare cues by members of the band, recorded for Mehegan in those lively 1959/1960 jazz sessions. Of particular note on this release is the sublime track, "Gafsa," summed up on its original release like so: "Another piano solo from Dollar Brand. It tells of a man who was madly in love with a wonderful woman. She dies, but her vision comes to him as he walks through the streets of Cape Town on a misty night."