Mankunku Quartet

Yakhal’ Inkomo

Mr Bongo • 1968

»He was a cow« means nothing less than the album title »Yakhal’ Inkomo«, if you trust several translation machines. In the absence of any knowledge of the Zulu language, we’ll just have to take that at face value and try to make a connection from that with the wonderful hard bop we hear on Winston Mankunku’s album. Ever since Gilles Peterson, the great British jazz radio impresario, paid tribute to the work of South African-born Winston Ngozi, people have been consumed by this masterpiece of African jazz. It’s possible to go even further: this record takes its place between the records of John Coltrane before 1961 and the work of Horace Silver. The alto and tenor saxophonist dedicates a piece and an interpretation to both. »Bessie’s Blues«, originally composed by Coltrane in honour of Bessie Smith, is intoned with a certain vigour; the bandleader himself is particularly convincing on this piece with his unerring slides, which even Papa Trane would have enjoyed. However, the focus should remain on Winston Ngozi’s own creations on the A-side, which are every bit as good as the great role models. It’s not only for fans of perfectly executed hard bop, but also for jazz beginners. Even though nothing on the record points to it being about a cow.