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Hugh Masekela: Sixty

Legendary South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela celebrates a return to his homeland on the artistic milestone release Sixty (Shanachie 5070; 70:13). The album finds the celebrated sexagenarian in fine form, still singing in a gruff, experience-laced baritone and swinging a remarkably smooth and evocative trumpet. Masekela draws from equal parts personal inspiration, folk legend and musical tradition on Sixty. Over a rhythmic pulse and vibrant vocal chorale, Masekela pays tribute to the late Nigerian trumpeter and an old counterpart on “Fela,” and on the elegant, lithe reading of the South African dance hall standard “Tamati So-So” he lays down sweet, breezy lines. Masekela’s weathered voice of wisdom sings of lost love on the ’40s-era “Lizzy,” and provides passionate counterpoint to prickly guitar on “Mgewundini.” Masekela’s liner notes prove equally valuable here, explaining intriguing folk tales and histories behind pieces like the wedding song “Thanayi,” with its dizzying, swirling rhythms, and “Been Such a Long Time Gone,” a lovely tribute to his liberated homeland which, Masekela writes, is “self-descriptive.” Masekela originally recorded the tune in 1974 and he brings a new joy and vibrancy to the piece, which, appropriately, features some of Sixty ‘s most rapturous vocalizing.

Originally Published