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Hugh Masekela Hospitalized, JAZZ EPISTLES Show at the Town Hall Continues

Town Hall and (Le) Poisson Rouge are proud to present the Jazz Epistles, featuring Abdullah Ibrahim and his acclaimed jazz ensemble Ekaya live in New York City for the first time on South Africa Freedom Day, April 27th. Hugh Masekela, originally scheduled to perform at this show, has been sidelined by a medical emergency, a dislocated right shoulder resulting from a recent fall while on tour in Morocco. He will be replaced for this program by the young South African trumpeter Lesedi Ntsane.

The show will also now include a special opening set by Dorothy Masuka, the famed South African vocalist, along with the great Bakithi Khumalo on bass. Half a century after the release of South Africa's landmark modern jazz album, Jazz Epistle, Verse 1, these extraordinary musicians will appear in a rare celebration of that iconic recording at The Town Hall at 123 West 43rd Street in New York. Masekela sent his regrets and support for this show in a personal message posted on YouTube:

The Jazz Epistles 1960 album "Jazz Epistle Verse 1" is the "Holy Grail" recording in modern South African jazz history, yetthe world was not aware of its pivotal importance, until now. In 1959, South Africa's top musicians­­­ -Hugh Masekela on trumpet, Abdullah Ibrahim on piano, Jonas Gwangwa on trombone, Kippie Moeketsi on alto saxophone, Johnny Gertze on bass, and Makaya Ntshoko on drums - created "the first all-black modern South African jazz recording." (Gwen Ansell, author of Soweto Blues). It was revolutionary for the time period, yet its modern sounds and controversial nature made it a commercial flop - only 500 LPs were originally printed. The apartheid government, which viewed jazz as an inherent threat to authority, forced its brilliant musicians into exile. Thus, the Jazz Epistles disbanded and the music was buried and almost lost.

For decades, due to the hostile circumstances of the time period, very little of this rich cultural history has been documented. Remarkably, Ibrahim and Masekela achieved massive success on their own terms overseas in exile. Ibrahim settled in Europe and Masekela in the States. They became symbols of the Pan-African movement, each writing popular anti-apartheid freedom songs and creating formidable discographies.

Now, half a century later, this recording will be revisited by Abdullah Ibrahim and Ekaya with the NY-based South African trumpeter Lesedi Ntsane sitting in for Hugh Masekela. Ntsane's musical roots go back to his grandfather, who founded the Merry Makers Orchestra in South Africa. Now based in New York, his credits include the New School Swingers and Jazz at Lincoln Center's Webop program. "This concert is very special to me," says Ntsane. "The Jazz Epistles are legendary. They are the blood of the soil. We all grew up on them. They gave us life and this is historic." The musicians not only revisit a critical chapter from apartheid-era South Africa, but also pay tribute to one of the most important jazz sessions to occur on South African soil.

Joining in the celebration of South Africa Freedom Day will be singer Dorothy Masuka, a superstar in South Africa since the 1950s when she was part of a renowned vocal trio with Miriam Makeba and Dolly Rathebe. Joining her will be the acclaimed bass player Bakithi Khumalo. Reflecting on South Africa Freedom Day, which celebrates the date of the country's first Democratic elections, Masuka underscores its importance: "I have no words for it. It's something one was waiting for all of one's life... Freedom Day means life!" This unique performance will be captured by WBGO-FM for Jazz Night in America, carried on NPR stations nationwide, and The Checkout hosted by Simon Rentner. This concert is produced by The Town Hall and (Le) Poisson Rouge, in partnership with WBGO, South African Tourism, and South African Airways.

Tickets for this event are from $37 to $127 (VIP, includes reception with the artists) and are available for sale via The Town Hall or (Le) Poisson Rouge box offices and Ticketmaster. Please visit TheTownHall.org or LPRNYC.com for additional information.


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