Louis Moholo-Moholo’s 5 Blokes
Reviewing a 2015 album by the great South African drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo’s group 4 Blokes, Guardian critic John Fordham praised its “astonishing intensity.” We can only imagine how intense today’s set will get with a fifth Bloke on board. Not that Moholo-Moholo, at 77 the last surviving member of South Africa’s legendary Blue Notes, requires more than his own rapturous playing to turn up the heat. In terms of intensity and propulsive power, his drumming has been compared to that of American masters Milford Graves and Andrew Cyrille.
In exile from his native land, Moholo-Moholo resettled in 1964 in England, where he became part of a community of South African musicians that exerted a strong influence on the improvised music scene. He played in Brotherhood of Breath, a big band led by Blue Notes pianist Chris McGregor that brought together South African and British musicians. Moholo-Moholo led his own bands, including Spirits Rejoice and Viva La Black, and accompanied free jazz giants including Cecil Taylor, Evan Parker, Steve Lacy and Peter Brotzmann.
The beat goes on in the Blokes, a highly popular attraction in Europe. The telepathy among the musicians – saxophonist Jason Yarde, pianist Alexander Hawkins, veteran bassist John Edwards and saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, the new Bloke, a few years removed from a stint in the Sun Ra Arkestra – is of a high order. But the sparks created by Moholo-Moholo and the encyclopedic Hawkins – the former with his fluid, levitating strokes and the latter with his dashing, wide-open phrases – are especially thrilling.