The ageing lion of South African jazz flugelhorn showed he still has all his own teeth as he scatted, sang, danced, joked, chided, mimed, agitated, funked, impersonated and swung through the night
He may have portioned his horn playing out carefully and avoided high notes in his singing but this only seemed to create more space for his ebullient personality to fill. He managed to talk seriously about the pass laws in South Africa while making wise cracks that were genuinely laugh-out-loud funny.
The evening was in many ways a celebration of the end of apartheid, a celebration that Masekela must have presided over a thousand times in the past 15 years and would be perfectly entitled to celebrate for another 15.
Hardship and injustice are of course the rule rather than the exception for most of humanity. Like a poet he declaimed against the modern day slavery imposed on those — especially in Africa — who work in the mines and the sweatshops before launching into a poignant piece of ensemble jazz punctuated by the sounds of a train carrying the migrant worker away from his family. The effect was powerful and moving.
On a more comical note, he pranced about and gently chided the vanity of some African women in Fela Kuti’s ‘Lady’. ‘She go say, “I be lady-o!”‘
The evening ended with a rapturous double encore of ‘Bring Back Nelson Mandela’ and an ode to a hugely fat but beautiful woman. He insisted his fellow South Africans would kill him if he didn’t oblige with the latter and everyone present was waiting eagerly for the former.
Polished, provocative and life-affirming.
See photos of the night on our sister site Flykr