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Hugh Masekela: Revival

Hugh Masekela has helped export the music of South Africa to the world. Yet for much of his career, especially during the latter stages, the jazz great has remained so wedded to his world-fusion and Afrobeat legacy that most of his works are notable only for their depressing singularity. Revival continues the paradigm established long ago: Take a couple of nice instrumentals, mix in a traditional song or two and add a few tracks addressing social concerns. But Masekela’s flugelhorn talent is so vast that it’s a shame that he can’t figure out a way to offer a CD that connects with his jazz roots, a la Chris Botti’s When I Fall in Love.

There are some nice moments on Revival, for sure. Masekela adds a fresh spin to the oft-covered Isley Brothers tune “For the Love of You,” and “Fresh Air” and “After Tears” are mellow and lilting instrumentals, the latter showcasing Jimmy Dludlu’s guitar work. But on the vocal tunes where he has the lead, Masakela’s gruff voice can be pretty tough to listen to. Better are the tracks where Masekela employs musicians and producers from the South African kwaito style-house music mixed with indigenous folk elements. Still, too much of this Revival is more like the same old riff.

Originally Published