ZIM NGQAWANA with MAX ROACH
Like his countryman and predecessor the late Dudu Pukwana, South African reedman Zim Ngqawana has concocted a potent stew from a motley assortment of African and American ingredients. Ngqawana (to pronounce it correctly, click your tongue toward the front of your mouth on the first syllable) has plenty of jazz chops, but he hasn’t much interest in recapitulating bebop. Instead, he draws on the overflowing folk traditions of his homeland–including the prejazz roots music called marabi and the West African high-life music that swept the continent in the 60s–and from the liberated-jazz movement that distinguished the U.S. scene 30 years ago. (Indeed, when Ngqawana performs, you hear Coltrane’s muse as much as township music.) Such earlier South African jazzmen as Pukwana and Abdullah Ibrahim (aka Dollar Brand) laced this recipe with a message of freedom, plus concomitant reminders of apartheid; the 38-year-old Ngqawana, a veteran of Ibrahim’s group and leader of several of his own, including the 100-person Drums for Peace Orchestra, belongs to a younger generation of musicians striving to create an equally powerful statement in a drastically restructured society. Two of Ngqawana’s four Chicago performances will feature drummer Max Roach, who broke in with Charlie Parker as one of the architects of bebop and who, half a century later, won a MacArthur “genius grant” for his accomplishments as a composer, bandleader, activist, and educator. (But forget all that: to best appreciate his mythic stature in jazz, you need only listen to his astonishing drum solo on Sonny Rollins’s original recording of “St. Thomas.”) Ngqawana won a scholarship with Roach’s name on it to the University of Massachusetts in 1989, but I’d guess that Roach–who in the 60s became one of the first U.S. artists to address apartheid in South Africa and discrimination here–has plenty of other reasons to admire the saxophonist. Ngqawana will appear with his South African group, the Ingoma Septet, in two performances: Monday, 8 PM, Bop Shop, 5419 N. Clark (note new location), 773-275-7771; and next Friday, May 16, 9 PM, Green Dolphin Street, 2200 N. Ashland, 773-395-0066. Roach will join Ngqawana’s band Thursday, May 15, 5 PM, Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington; 312-744-6630 (preceding the concert, this writer will interview the artists onstage). Finally, Ngqawana and Roach will both appear as special guests with the Northwestern University Jazz Ensemble next Saturday, May 17, 7:30 PM, Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, Northwestern University, 1977 South Campus Dr., Evanston; 847-491-5441 or 847-467-4000. NEIL TESSER
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Uncredited photos of Zim Ngqawana and Max Roach.