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Christopher McGregor (24 December 1936 – 26 May 1990), was a South African jazz pianist, bandleader and composer born in Somerset West, South Africa.
McGregor grew up in the then Transkei (now part of the Eastern Cape Province) where his father was headmaster at a Church of Scotland mission institution called Blythswood. Here he was exposed to the music of the local amaXhosa people.
After school and a stint in the merchant navy training academy The General Botha at Gordon's Bay in the Western Cape, McGregor enrolled at the South African College of Music, then headed by Professor Eric Chisholm. Here McGregor was exposed to a different set of influences, during the day Bela Bartok and Arnold Schoenberg, and at night recordings of Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk, and the live music of local jazz musicians like Dollar Brand (now Abdullah Ibrahim), Cecil Barnard (now Hotep Idris Galeta), Christopher Columbus Ngcukana, Vincent Kolbe, "Cup-and-Saucers" Nkanuka, Monty Weber, the Schilder brothers, and many others who were active in the vibrant Cape jazz scene at that time, the middle 1950s. The vibrancy and power of this music has led some to designate the music played around Cape Town as a particular jazz genre called "Cape Jazz." (Miller, 2007).
These contacts led in the following year to the formation firstly of the now-legendary Blue Notes and secondly of a big band called the Castle Lager Big Band. The Blue Notes at this stage consisted of Mongezi Velelo (and later Sammy Maritz) on bass, Early Mabuza on drums, Dudu Pukwana on alto and Nikele Moyake on tenor. The great young trumpet player Mongezi Feza joined the group soon after. Johnny Dyani replaced Sammy Maritz on bass and Louis Moholo replaced Early Mabuza soon after and the permanent Blue Notes group was complete.
The Castle Lager Big Band was formed after the 1963 Moroka-Jabavu Jazz Festival. This 17-piece group made the album Jazz: The African Sound, which had six tracks, two compositions by Abdullah Ibrahim, two by Kippie Moeketsi and two by McGregor, all in arrangements by McGregor. Apart from the arrangements, one of the most striking things about the album was the wonderful playing by Moeketsi on clarinet, instead of his usual alto. In the band were musicians who had yet to make names for themselves but would become internationally known. Most notable perhaps was Barney Rachabane, who would go on to, among other achievements, play with Paul Simon on the Graceland tour. Simon would describe Rachabane as the "most soulful sax player in the world."
McGregor is perhaps best-known for his foundation and leadership of The Blue Notes, a South African sextet which included collaborators Dudu Pukwana, Nikele Moyake, Louis Moholo, Johnny Dyani and Mongezi Feza. Equally as notable was McGregor's creation of the Brotherhood of Breath in 1969, which branched out from his work as The Blue Notes. He released three albums of solo piano performances, and continued to be a major force in the music after leaving England to live in the French countryside. He also made a contribution to Nick Drake's Bryter Layter album by performing a piano solo on the track "Poor Boy".
01. Nick Tete 05:58
02. Joyful Noises 13:50
03. Think Of Something 07:46
04. Do It 08:56
05. Funky Boots March 01:20