[Razor & Tie]

As far as most Americans are concerned, Hugh Masekela was a one-hit wonder who scored a fluke pop chart-topper in 1968 with his jazzy take on the grooving “Grazing in the Grass,” and hasn’t done much since. In truth, the South African trumpeter, flugelhornist and vocalist has been recording and performing steadily for some five decades now—and if his public profile isn’t as high as it once was, his music is no less stirring. For Jabulani, Masekela revisits the South African township wedding songs of his youth, music that heralded happy times ahead and ultimately influenced his buoyant style. While the words may not register with Westerners, the jubilation suggested in the album’s title shines through. In recent years Masekela has reclaimed the African rhythms he at times abandoned in favor of a more pop-oriented direction, and his skills as a jazz improviser remain strong, even if his emphasis now is more concentrated on his gruff vocals than his horn. –J. Tamarkin

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