Revival (Heads Up International HUCD 3093, 2005)
South African horn player/singer/composer Hugh Masekela hardly needs an introduction. He’s been a world music legend since long before the term existed, overcoming the evils of apartheid, collaborating with numerous notables and seamlessly weaving African rhythms with funk, soul, R&B, jazz and pop. So let me jump to the bottom line here by saying that Revival is one of Masekela’s best ever, easily ranking with any of his groundbreaking work in the ’60s or the
many landmarks since.
Influenced by kwaito, the hip-hop fueled style popular among contemporary South African youths, Masekela has crafted a disc that stays true to his trademark fusion style while possessing a consistent kick that his last few albums have come up short on. Sure, the production is smooth and modern, but the tunes themselves run hot throughout.
The familiar purr of Masekela’s cornet, flugelhorn and voice are surrounded by percolating, slyly catchy songs that include some marvelous vocal tradeoffs (as on the cheeky “Woman of the Sun”), instrumental passages that range from slow burning to blazing and a proper balance of fun and serious African consciousness.
Like every Masekela album, this one packs appeal for the jazz crowd and the African music lovers in addition to a few well-placed easy listening moments. It takes a master to pull off such a mix without straining to be all things to all people, and what we have here is a master work by a master musician.