Friday, February 17, 2012

Concert Review: Hugh Masekela at the Dakota Jazz Club

On Wednesday night, I saw the South African jazz musician Hugh Masekela at the Dakota Jazz Club. It was a great concert. I’m not that familiar with Masekela’s music, I’ve really only heard his big 1968 hit “Grazin’ in the Grass,” and seen a YouTube video of him live with Paul Simon in the 80’s. But my Mom saw Hugh when he was at the Dakota about a year ago, and she said it was just a fantastic show. So when he came back, I figured I should go. (My Mom and my wife also attended the concert on Wednesday.) Masekela plays the flugelhorn, and when he isn’t doing that he’s either singing or playing percussion instruments and dancing around the stage. He really puts on a show. (Sidenote: I took the photo above with my IPhone.)

I’m not sure exactly how I would describe Masekela’s music. Maybe South African world music mixed with jazz. But, as Duke Ellington once said, “There are two kinds of music. Good and bad.” Masekela’s music is definitely good music. His tone on the flugelhorn is still rich and pure. His singing is very expressive, as his voice ranges from high, haunting tones to low, powerful moans. The band that he had with him was absolutely amazing, especially his young guitar player. The band was guitar, bass, keyboards, drums, and a percussionist. They were all really good players. I can’t tell you the name of any of the songs that Masekela played, but they ranged from a South African song played when a bride goes to meet her husband on her wedding day to more jazz inflected pieces.

Masekela clearly still enjoys performing and playing music, and he was in a good mood throughout the 1 hour and 20 minute set. He joked about how cold it was the last time they came to play at the Dakota, and that he was glad it was warmer this time. I really enjoyed the concert, and sometimes it’s a lot of fun to see someone in concert that you’re not that familiar with. I definitely had fewer expectations than when I go to see one of my very favorite musicians like Elvis Costello in concert. And while Elvis Costello certainly more than exceeded my expectations, sometimes it’s nice to go into a concert with not much idea of what it will be like. For me there’s a nervous energy surrounding concerts of a musician I really like. Will my seats be good? How will they sound? What if they’re sick? What if they don’t play my favorite song? These thoughts don’t keep me from enjoying the concerts, but they certainly go through my head. Sometimes it’s nice to say, “I don’t know much about this person, but they seem interesting, so hopefully they’ll put on a good show and I’ll enjoy the music.” Hugh Masekela certainly put on a great show, and I really enjoyed the music.

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