Audio

Revivalist Review: Hugh Masekela & Larry Willis 'Friends'


Like most jazz musicians, Hugh Masekela and Larry Willis were also students outside of the classroom, jamming for hours on end at landmarks like Jazz Gallery, The Village Gate, even Birdland. Most recently, during last year’s performance at The Cape Town International Jazz Festival, Masekela and Willis devoted almost an entire live set to his 2005 album Almost Like Being in Jazz, revisiting the standards that gave them their musical bearings. After performing to the sold-out crowd in Cape Town, friends and family (including Willis) urged Masekela to record these songs once again. Reuniting with Willis, their latest album is aptly titled Friends, a 4-disc box set containing 40 songs—38 are American standards while two are from the French composer Michel Legrand. Masekela gives Willis credit for bringing the “jazz” out of him on this album. “Larry taught me all of these songs because he knew them better than I did. All I had to say was ‘I like that song.’ ‘You like it?’ ‘We’re gonna play it!’”

Willis kicks off the second set with a quiet, contemplative piano on Randy Weston’s “Hi Fly.” After a subtle pickup of the tempo, while he steadily taps his foot in rhythm, Masekela creates an ebb and flow on flugelhorn with his notes as he starts off powerful and high, and then comes down in a soft, breathy staccato. Applying a bit too much force in the opening, especially when he tackles the melody line, Masekela finds his way back quite nicely during his improvisation with a tidal wave of punctuated notes before handing it back to Willis, who creates a few waves of his own with a strong, lyrical piano. To see (and hear) Masekela and Willis “dance” together during their call and response as they close out the number shows both the intimacy and trust that these musicians share.

Words by Shannon J. Effinger

>>>Read the full piece at Revivalist

Interview

Sarkodie Is Not Feeling Any Pressure

The elite Ghanaian rapper affirms his king status with this seventh studio album, No Pressure.

Sarkodie is one of the most successful African rappers of all time. With over ten years of industry presence under his belt, there's no question about his prowess or skin in the game. Not only is he a pioneer of African hip-hop, he's also the most decorated African rapper, having received over 100 awards from close to 200 nominations over the span of his career.

What else does Sarkodie have to prove? For someone who has reached and stayed at the pinnacle of hip-hop for more than a decade, he's done it all. But despite that, he's still embracing new growth. One can tell just by listening to his latest album, No Pressure, Sarkodie's seventh studio album, and the follow-up to 2019's Black Love which brought us some of the Ghanaian star's best music so far. King Sark may be as big as it gets, but the scope of his music is still evolving.

Sonically, No Pressure is predominantly hip-hop, with the first ten tracks offering different blends of rap topped off with a handful of afrobeats and, finally, being crowned at the end with a gospel hip-hop cut featuring Ghanaian singer MOG. As far as the features go, Sark is known for collaborating mostly with his African peers but this time around he branches out further to feature a number of guests from around the world. Wale, Vic Mensa, and Giggs, the crème de la crème of rap in America and the UK respectively all make appearances, as well as Nigeria's Oxlade, South Africa's Cassper Nyovest, and his fellow Ghanaian artists Darkovibes and Kwesi Arthur.

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