|Mtutuzel Dudu Pukwana|
18 July 1938|
Walmer Township, Port Elizabeth, South Africa
|Died||June 30, 1990(aged 51)|
|Instruments||Alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, piano|
|1970s – 1990|
|Labels||77 Records, Vertigo, Virgin, Caroline, Affinity, ICP|
|Mongezi Feza, Johnny Dyani, Louis Moholo, Chris McGregor|
Dudu Pukwana was born in Walmer Township, Port Elizabeth, South Africa. He grew up studying piano in his family, but in 1956 he switched to alto sax after meeting tenor sax player Nikele Moyake. In 1962, Pukwana won first prize at the Johannesburg Jazz Festival with Moyake's Jazz Giants (1962 Gallo/Teal). In his early days he also played with Kippie Moeketsi. Chris McGregor then invited him to join the pioneering Blue Notes sextet where he played along with Mongezi Feza, Nikele Moyake, Johnny Dyani and Louis Moholo. Although The Blue Notes are often considered McGregor's group, Pukwana was initially the principal composer and all the group members had pivotal roles.
As mixed-race groups were illegal under apartheid, the Blue Notes, increasingly harassed by authorities, emigrated to Europe in 1964, playing in France and Zurich, and eventually settling in London. After The Blue Notes split in the late 1960s, Pukwana joined McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath big band, which again featured his soloing heavily. As a composer Pukwana wrote "Mra," one of the best-loved tunes by the Brotherhood.
In February 1967 Pukwana received his first mention in America's Down Beat magazine: "Tenorist Ronnie Scott's Old Place, having a hard time breaking even, scored a financial success with the Bob Stuckey Trio, featuring the leader's organ and altoist Dudu Pukwana". The trio later expanded to a quartet when Phil Lee joined on guitar,and this group performed twice on BBC's Jazz Club. As a quartet the band also had a regular session at the Witches Cauldron in Belsize Park. The band completed a series of UK dates throughout 1967, including regular appearances at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club.
He also went on to form two groups with Feza and Moholo. The first was Assagai, an afro-rock band that recorded for the Vertigo label. The second was Spear, with whom he recorded the seminal afro-jazz album In The Townships in 1973 for Virgin Records at The Manor Studio. Assagai and Spear, which recorded a few albums in the early 1970s, blended kwela rhythms, rocking guitars, and jazz solos.
Pukwana's fiery voice was heard in many diverse settings including recordings of Mike Heron, Centipede and Toots and the Maytals as well as improvising with Misha Mengelberg and Han Bennink (Yi Yo Le, ICP 1978). With Mongezi Feza, Elton Dean, Keith Tippett, and Louis Moholo, Pukwana recorded two masterful acoustic tracks on the mostly electric album Diamond Express (Freedom 1977). The death of his great friend Mongezi Feza in 1975 also inspired the heart-rending "Blue Notes For Mongezi" (Ogun Records), alongside Blue Notes colleagues Johnny Dyani, Chris McGregor and Louis Moholo. He also guested on albums with his former Blue Notes colleague, Johnny Dyani, particularly Witchdoctor's Son (1978, SteepleChase Records), which features some of his best recorded work and played extensively with the drummer John Stevens. Several African leaders invited him into their groups, including Hugh Masekela (Home Is Where the Music Is, 1972) and trombonist Jonas Gwangwa (African Explosion, Who, Ngubani 1969).
In 1978, Pukwana founded Jika Records and formed his own band, Zila, featuring South Africans Lucky Ranku on guitar and powerful vocalist Miss Pinise Saul. Zila recorded Zila Sounds (1981), Live in Bracknell and Willisau (1983), partly recorded at the Bracknell Jazz Festival, and Zila (1986), the last with keyboardist Django Bates and Pukwana increasingly using soprano sax. In duo with John Stevens, he recorded the free session They Shoot to Kill (Affinity Records, 1987), dedicated to Johnny Dyani.
On 16 April 1990, Pukwana took part in the Nelson Mandela Tribute held at Wembley Stadium. He died in London of liver failure in June 1990, not long after the death of his longtime friend and colleague McGregor.
An audio sample of "File:Angel Nemali" (from In the Townships, 1973)
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