For contemporary jazz fans, among the many joyous (pun very much intended) reasons to revisit (via remaster and reissue) Ojoyo Plays Safrojazz, veteran saxophonist and pennywhistle master Morris Goldberg’s robust explosive 1996 celebration of his Capetown, South Africa roots and heritage, is the spirited trumpeting of Chris Botti during his smooth jazz, pre-global stardom days. Botti guests on seven of these nine tracks, soloing brightly and buoyantly on the frolicsome (and perfectly titled!) jam “Forward Motion” and the high octane romp “Little Song.”
There’s also the matter of the relentless grooves, sprung from the feisty, capable hands of South African born drummer Anton Fig and Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptisa. The re-issue is also a way to celebrate the foundational energies of Goldlberg’s longstanding ensemble Ojoyo and reflect upon his decades-long legacy that includes decades of recording and touring with Hugh Masekela and work with Miriam Makeba, Harry Belafonte, and perhaps most indelibly to American pop fans, Paul Simon via his iconic pennywhistle solo on “You Can Call Me Al.”
The great intoxicating thing about the kind of free-spirited, endlessly grooving African jazz like Ojoyo plays is its timelessness. It sounds as fresh and fun as it did 25 years ago, inviting us along on a lively, hypnotic “Station Road Strut” to spicy hotspots like “Harare” (featuring a mindbending bass solo by Bakithi Kumalo) and “Madagascar” and getting us up to dance (if we’ve somehow failed to already!) with the blues-tinged brass funk explosion “Dolphin Jive.”
For those who want mo’ and mo’ of Morris’ legendary pennywhistle, the jaunty, whimsical “Rockwela” is just the ticket. Ojoyo Plays Safrojazz is a welcome return to the world music scene of the 90s, refreshed for a new generation of listeners raised to consume music in a whole different way.