CD Review: Loose Tubes - Säd Afrika

Loose Tubes - Säd Afrika
(Lost Marble Records LM006. CD Review by Chris Parker)


Loose Tubes concerts (of which this is almost the last; it was recorded during their farewell residency at Ronnie Scott’s in September 1990) used to begin with a political statement about the band’s opposition to nuclear power, but they were also keenly interested in country-specific struggles, particularly the anti-apartheid movement, then yet to bring about democracy in South Africa, but recently (February 1990) successful in getting Nelson Mandela released from prison on Robben Island. 

The seven tracks on this album, which is a follow-up to the superbly rousing Dancing on Frith Street (2010, LM005), thus draw heavily on South African templates, from kwela (penny-whistle music) to the jazz of the album’s dedicatees, Dudu Pukwana, Mongezi Feza, Chris McGregor et al., who – in Django Bates’s words, ‘graced and inspired the UK music scene’. 

My reaction to the aforementioned Dancing on Frith Street album applies equally to this one: ‘Twenty years on … a great deal of British jazz sounds like Loose Tubes’ music: quirky, adventurous, punchy, original, occasionally laced with irony and/or whimsy, partly because the likes of Mark Lockheart, Iain Ballamy, Django Bates, Eddie Parker, Chris Batchelor, John Parricelli, Martin France and Julian Nicholas have been at the heart of the UK scene during that period, but also because the original 21-piece band opened up, courtesy of its refreshing and good-humoured refusal to be exclusively influenced by the US jazz template, musical territory that is still being explored by bands in the new millennium.’

Suavely introduced by bass trombonist Ashley Slater and containing three Bates compositions, two by Eddie Parker (including the previously unrecorded ‘Exeter, King of Cities’) and one by Chris Batchelor, this is an indispensable record of a uniquely influential band at the peak of its powers.

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