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Sad Afrika
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 14 May 2012
I never got to see Loose Tubes live, and I've been kicking myself for that oversight for more than twenty years. The release of this live album (and its equally wonderful predecessor, `Dancing on Frith Street') goes some way towards making up for my loss. It captures them in all their exuberance and swagger, but what perhaps strikes me most forcefully is their discipline and sense of form. There's no self-indulgence here, quite an achievement with such a big Big Band; the temptation to sprawl must have been almost irresistible, but resist it they did. Consequently the pieces are almost all fairly short, only one breaking the seven minute mark, and what they lose in extended solo space they gain in tight, focused compositions and arrangements. Loose Tubes was, in addition to all the other things it was, a composers' band, and luckily they had some great composers, chiefly Bates, of course, but others too (in particular Eddie Parker's reputation must be enhanced by this release).
If this makes the album sound dry and formal I'm doing a terrible job of describing it. It's fun! It's got great tunes, foot-tapping rhythms (though they're rarely allowed to settle in for too long before being subverted), humour, tenderness, and an astonishing range of tone colours.
Having claimed brevity as a virtue, I'm now going to contradict myself and say that the only criticism I can make is that the album's rather short, just 48 minutes. Are there no other tunes in the vaults that could have been included? And the size of the band means that some great musicians don't get to solo - we don't hear two of my favourite saxophonists, Iain Ballamy and Mark Lockheart, for example.
Loose Tubes were a great band, and this release confirms that fact. Can we look forward to their three studio albums receiving a proper release on CD?
And they all look so heartbreakingly young (and 80s) in the accompanying photos.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
You wait for 20 years with nothing - then two come along in quick succession! So after waiting so long to hear this great band, we had Dancing on Frith Street late in 2010 and now we have another live recording from the Ronnie Scott's residency that saw Loose Tubes go out on a high, in their last ever concerts.

On this CD we have 7 different tunes, many of which are unavailable anywhere else and all of which showcase the variety and unique sound of this extraordinary unit of more than 20 players, who all went on to play big parts in the British and European Jazz scene. Each track is unique in itself and highly arranged - as you would imagine for such a large ensemble - but there are also elements of improvisation and each member bringing something to the sound.

It's a Jazz big band, but unlike any other - 5 saxes, 5 trumpets, 5 trombones, tuba, flute, clarinet and a great rhythm section. If that's not enough, everybody sings in a harmonised choir and there are additional instruments like multiple penny whistles. This is the penultimate night of the Ronnie Scott's residency - in other words, the second to last gig they ever played.

First up is the title track and the whole album is dedicated to Nelson Mandela. This tune is reminiscent of South African "Township" music, which has been popularised here by artists like Abdullah Ibrahim, Dudu Pukwana etc. This tune does have a central section with that kind of shuffling beat typical of that style and it has multiple tin whistles playing the kind of simple melody you would expect - but there is so much more - dissonant horns and strange choral sounds from the band, at times it threatens to go out of control.

"Exeter, King of Cities" is a more complex, highly-arranged piece from Eddie Parker and then we are on to "Sunny", which sees us transported to Eastern Europe and something which verges on Klezmer band territory, with shouts, mad solos and shifting "Oompah" rhythms that speed up in tempo to frantic levels.

"Mo Mhúirnín Bán" starts in Irish Folk music territory with flute and guitar, but moves into a fully arranged piece from the whole band - imagine if there was such a thing as an Irish brass band. "Delightful Precipice" is a typical Django Bates piece, dedicated to fans of LSD and is totally madcap - funky sections, choral singing then it shifts into contemporary classical territory and when the flute solos, it sounds more like Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" than Jazz! The piece shifts gears radically and it is like falling off a cliff at times.

"Sosbun Brakk" reminds us that this is a live album, with its mistake and re-start. But somehow this adds to the atmosphere, rather than detracting from the performance. This track is more in Free Jazz territory, with walking bass line, but apparently open harmony.

The album ends with "Sweet Williams" and is another Bates composition in the South African inspired style of the opener - neatly book-ending the set. The whole makes sense as a record of the penultimate night and is also a valid musical statement, which is a homage to the spirit of African music that came to Britain and re-invigorated the Jazz scene.

Of course this is very British and European music as well, highly arranged and the humour is evident throughout - there is nothing else like this and there probably never will be, so we are very lucky to have these recordings. I hope we eventually get every night of that residency and look forward to the next release. Highly recommended.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 17 May 2012
Another splendid trawl of whatever archive exists of Loose Tubes terrific live performances, 'Säd Afrika' is the sequel to 'Dancing on Frith Street', issued in 2010. All the same superlatives apply to this set. Who knows the 3 studio albums could be lined up for reissue, but great as that would be, in a way this is better - Loose Tubes was always stunning live, an unforgettable experience. This puts you there - again!
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on 2 July 2012
Reading some of the other reviews on here makes me realise how lucky I was to see Loose Tubes in concert twice, and how lucky I am to still have those first 3 studio albums, although like the other contributors I'd like to re-purchase them on CD. But this CD, together with Dancing on Frith Street, are wonderful additions to the Tubes legacy. All the hallmarks are here, striking melodies which veer into apparently chaotic improvisations over foot-tapping riffs. And the reverse, where the cacophony resolves itself into beauty. Stellar musicians at the top of their game. Great fun and great music.
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on 26 June 2012
I remember hearing these sounds at Ronnie's.

The joy, exhilaration, sheer musicianship, improvisational dynamics,
almost unmatched. Anywhere.

Influences abound, comparisons are inevitable, Bley, Nelson,
Dankworth, Dolphy, but Django Bates and his glorious crew of
inventive and stunning musicians show where it's at.

Unmissable. Enjoy.

Peace

Dr.Ivan Clark
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on 5 May 2013
Fantastic Fun Funky Mix.
The South African style tunes are a joy. Penny whistle solos beautiful transporting you to the beauty of the people and culture.
Incredible talented eclectic big band.
All the musicians producers and no doubt
suportive families and friend must all be glowing with pride to be involved in this special album.
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on 26 May 2014
Just brilliant, inspired and inspiring. No egos get in the way of joyful compositions played with love and total enjoyment
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