How South Africa’s Blue Notes Helped Invent European Free Jazz 

Source: Bandcamp Daily.

In July of 1964, the members of the Cape Town-based band Blue Notes boarded a plane, headed for a gig at the world famous Antibes Jazz Festival in Juan-les-Pins, France. They were all leaving South Africa for the first time; most of them would never return. At the time, critics and audiences considered them the best jazz band in the country, but because the sextet was multi-racial they were hounded by the Apartheid state which made it illegal for its members to gather—much less perform—as a group. With passports secured, the escape to Antibes wasn’t just a career opportunity, it was an asylum from the institutionalized, racist nightmare of their homeland. For the history of improvised music, and for free jazz which came to embody the sound of global Black liberation, it also became much more. The legend that the Blue Notes would forge in Europe over the next quarter century—both as an ensemble and as individual players—constitutes one of the most under-appreciated legacies in jazz.