Horace who? Not Horace Silver, another Blue Note star, no, not him. Don’t fret. I had never heard of Parlan either, not until the founder/publisher of this site sent me this box set to review. I was a little distrubed after hearing this box that I hadn’t heard of him. I don’t blame myself, of course. There must be some reason why is this amazing virtuoso has drifted in the outer darkness despite his proximity to many of the brightest stars of the jazz universe?
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Born and raised in the hell of South African apartheid, Hugh Masekela triumphed over oppression by wielding what Fela Kuti referred to as the weapon of the future–music. The young Masekela was first introduced to the trumpet (his future weapon) by anti-apartheid activist Father Trevor Huddleston. In a few short years, Masekela had developed into a raw but powerful player. Beginning in the mid-’50s, he was one of the most sought after musicians in all of Africa, partnering up with such luminaries as pianist Abdullah Ibrahim (aka Dollar Brand) and singer Miriam Makeba. Finding solidarity and a spirit of resistance in their music, Masekela and his contemporaries took inspiration from America’s more politically outspoken black artists, particularly Miles Davis and Paul Robeson.
In 1971-1972, a handful of long-haired brothers representing Sounds of Unity and Love asked the world two simple questions: “What Is IT?” and “Can You Feel IT?” Miles Davis provided the perfect answer in his autobiography, which begins with an authoritative command to “LISTEN!” Duke Ellington had a deep understanding of what IT is, insisting that “IT Don’t Mean A Thing, If IT Ain’t Got That Swing.” And James Brown let everybody feel IT when he proclaimed, “Say IT Louder, I’m Black And I’m Proud.” While IT may have also been the sinister brain in Madeline L’Engle’s science-fiction masterpiece, A Wrinkle In Time, in the hands of S.O.U.L., IT was just that.