In patching together a program of Hugh Masekela's MGM recordings onto a single overstuffed CD, Verve took the original The Americanization of Ooga Booga album, leapfrogged over its successor, Next Album, and coupled it with the third MGM LP, The Lasting Impressions of Hugh Masekela. That made good sense since the two albums originate from the same live date at the Village Gate, recorded when the trumpeter was still in the process of making an impression in the U.S. Masekela is full of wild, sputtering, high-rolling exuberance, developing some of his familiar signature trumpet riffs, freely exploring South African rhythms, harmonic sequences, and chants, and mixing them with soul-jazz at a time when hardly anyone else would bother (the mixture of township jive and jazz works especially well on "U-Dwi").
This disc strikes me as an ideal introduction to the music of Turkey’s greatest composer. Ahmed Adnan Saygun’s style might be described as “Szymanowski with a primal rhythmic feel.” If you love the composer’s First Violin Concerto then you will find here a very similar exoticism, nocturnal atmosphere, and love of voluptuous textures. The harmonic style is intensely chromatic, but also highly melodic. Like Bartók in his last period, Saygun’s handling of tonality mellowed toward the end of his life, which makes the Cello Concerto more consonant than the Viola Concerto, but both works are absolutely gorgeous and masterpieces of their kind. It’s positively criminal that no one plays these pieces regularly in concert. The performances here are excellent. Tim Hugh is a well-known cellist, and he pours on the tone with all of the rhapsodic abandon that Saygun requires. Mirjam Tschopp also is a superb violist, with a big, beefy tone that never gets swamped by the intricate orchestration. It’s also very rewarding to hear a Turkish orchestra in this music–and to find that it plays beautifully under Howard Griffiths.