Monday, August 1, 2011

Basil 'Manenberg' Coetzee & Lionel Pillay - Plum and Cherry (1979)

Basil Coetzee acquired his nickname, 'Manenberg,' from his masterful performance in a wonderful collaboration with Dollar Brand (Abdullah Ibrahim) in 1974. Coetzee remained in South Africa through the long years of apartheid, while many of colleagues in the SA jazz community fled repression to Europe and elsewhere. A good summary of Coetzee's career is here.

This album followed the seminal "Manenberg - Cape Town Fringe" by five years, and Coetzee's exuberant, joyful sax in that performance had become much more soulful in the rendition of Dollar Brand's "Cherry" that fills all 25 minutes of side one.

While Basil Coetzee achieved fame, if not fortune, for his musical efforts, pianist Lionel Pillay received neither. Although he spent years as a session musician, contributing to great recordings like Winston Mankunku's "Yakhal' Inkomo," and, as Lionel Martin, with the South African Broadcasting Corporation, Pillay died in obscurity.

This obscure album is really Pillay's opus, with two extended songs featuring his improvisations on piano, electric piano and organ. While Coetzee's sax flows through much of "Cherry," it is absent altogether on the flip side, filled by Pillay's "Plum." Throughout the album both Rod Clark, on drums and percussion, and bassist Charles Johnstone set down wicked, prolonged rhythms. Pillay samples "Manenberg" in "Plum," but much of the song rocks with disco or even house overtones. Pillay is brilliant on any keyboard he touches, on this unique recording.


Rhythm Connection said...

I'm hopeful that the compañeros over at electricjive will be able to add some detail to this rather vague consideration of Lionel Pillay. In searching the ethosphere for more information I found the introduction, and on Google books a couple of chapters, of a 2007 book called "Unsung - South African Jazz Musicians Under Apartheid." I tried to find a copy I could order, but amazingly and to my dismay, it seems to be out of print and unavailable. Maybe it can be found in South Africa?

Anonymous said...

thank you for this!!

Love Letters Journal said...

Thanks - the unsung book is available both in electronic and paper format here

(just search for it or click on the "music" label)

Rhythm Connection said...

Cool. I bought the book and appreciate the tip. Thanks very much!

LevonRawls said...

many thanks