Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Dollar Brand

  • Cape Town Fringe [Chiaroscuro, 1977] B+
  • African Marketplace [Elektra, 1980] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Cape Town Fringe [Chiaroscuro, 1977]
Horns and piano lope through the 13-minute title cut and A side--a relaxed, sexy, conversational melody with variations-and-polyrhythms that is as charming and listenable as any African pop music I've yet come across. Side B begins as a fetchingly forthright Spanish-style piano piece but devolves into a flute meander that doesn't justify an overall length of 13:36. Nevertheless, a find. B+

African Marketplace [Elektra, 1980]
More than any other jazz musician I know of, the South African pianist doesn't just honor and evoke popular traditions, he redefines them, injecting his Ellinigtonian structures with r&b-based urban dance rhythms and strange (to us) tribal voicings. As often as not his band projects a crudely gorgeous songfulness most unjazzlike in its simplicity--folklike tunes repeat obligingly, ostinatos just don't quit. Take the synthesis for the patriotism of an exile who believes in the wisdom of his people and his land and refuses to indulge his alienation from both. A-