Thursday, 30 August 2012

Mountain Records history - Choose your chapter



 

Start at the bottom of these pages to read the history! Click on the menu on the right to find the chapters.

This blog was written at different times so there is no real chronological order to the telling of the story.

The official label websites are -
www.mountain.co.za

and -
www.releases.music-production-ideas.com

Old websites - 
http://mountain-co-za.blogspot.de

Catalogue -
http://mountainlabel.blogspot.de


PLEASE NOTE - this entire blog page - all the posts hereon - is a work in progress and is edited as we get time. NO PART HEREOF MAY BE REPRODUCED WITHOUT PERMISSION OF THE LABEL.

Cape Jazz


Cape Jazz - 

Perhaps the most enduring interest of the label is its promotion of Cape Jazz. Though it was not the first interest, most of the releases after 1984 were in some way aligned to this Jazz sub-genre unique to the Western Cape of South Africa.

The first actual release using the words Cape Jazz on the sleeve of a Mountain release - we think on any release anywhere - was on the release of a compilation of productions recorded by label boss, Patrick Lee-Thorp, over a period of about 12 years beginning a couple of years before the start of the label. The music on the compilation was all instrumental and all original compositions by performers themselves. It was released in 1992 under the name Cape Jazz. The artists on the album included, Basil Coetzee, Robbie Jansen, Tony Schilder, Morris Goldberg, Jonathan Butler and The Genuines.


Sleeve of Cape Jazz (Vol 1) - Songwrights Publishers (c)
 This design styling was continued throughout the series of all 3 albums.

A few months before the compilation was issued, Basil Coetzee was asked by an American researcher and journalist what he called the music he played, and he said it was Cape Jazz. When asked where the name came from he said that Patrick Lee-Thorp had described his music as such. Lee-Thorp in turn told the journalist that he heard Robbie Jansen describing his music as Cape Jazz and agreed that the nature of the music was sufficiently different from American Jazz or African Jazz, that it should be identified as such. The debate having been ignited by the compilation, resulted in significant commercial and critical success for the record.

The question was more often asked, what is Cape Jazz? Here is Patrick's description.

"It is a cultural music of the people of the Cape, of the Coloured people. Essentially it is blues or folk music, jazzed up, or new music composed which is inspired by the folk music of the Cape. There are common threads like the up-tempo Goema rhythm of the carnival music, common harmonies in the voicing of the brass and vocals, sometimes similar to the Cape Malay choir style of singing mixed with Christian church music. The choice of instrumentation is mostly based on the ability to carry the instrument (in street parades) and its volume when played acoustically, and it has Africa in it, but the Africa of the very southern tip of the continent. The Africa of the Khoi/San tribes and of the Xhosa people with their cyclic repetitive phrases and rhythms. Like most African music it is mostly made to move or dance to".

"In my view the first guru of Cape Jazz was Dollar Brand (Abdullah Ebrahim), he certainly alerted me to the difference between this and other American and European style jazz I had heard before. And the perfect example is his recording of Manenberg, which featured Basil Coetzee, Robbie Jansen, Morris Goldberg, Monty Weber and Paul Michaels. It was an inspiring work of interpretation on Dollar's part, but that could not have been realised if the same spirit had not been running in the blood of the other players who made it with him".

"I think Cape Jazz was there before Dollar Brand, the local musicians were playing it in the clubs and taverns of the port city, together with sailor musicians from north and south America and from Europe, blending what they new with the jazz influences from overseas. But I think Dollar put his finger on it. He certainly enlightened me. For me the moment came in a concert I organised at the University of Cape Town featuring Dollar Brand, Monty Weber, Paul Michaels, Basil Coetzee and Robbie Jansen. When they played a jazzed up version of the folk traditional, Huis toe gaan, I knew I was hearing Cape Jazz. Robbie later recorded the song for me as part of the Cape Medley, on his Cape Doctor album"



The Cape Jazz Band (CJB), an all-star unit assembled to perform the classics of the genre, under the leadership
 of Jack Momple (extreme left) Circa 2007 in Malaysia. The line-up L to R, Jack [Drums] Shaun Duval [Saxophone], Cameron Ward [Guitar], Stephen Erasmus [Percussion], Alex van Heerden [Trumpet and Accordion], Jonathan Rubain [Bass], Kyle Shepherd [Piano].

A lot of the Cape Jazz produced in the last 20 years by the label, was done with the musical and technical assistance of sound engineer, Murray Anderson. Together with Zayn Adams, Murray and ourselves, a demo production studio was started. Murray took over the facility and then moved it to the site of UCA Studios, in uptown Cape Town, the facility favoured by Mountain for their productions. Under the renamed Milestones the studio was the birthplace of many productions by our stable of jazz acts.

Over this period two more compilations on this theme were to be released. They were Cape Jazz - 2 (a view of the genre from the viewpoint of selected composers) and Cape Jazz 3 - Goema (a collection of the uptempo style inspired by the Coon Carnival held in Cape Town). The records showcased newer label productions though not all tracks on the volumes were Mountain productions.


Tony Cedras on trumpet and Dizu Plaatjies in the studio for the CJ4 project. (c) Songwrights Publishers

In the winter of 2012 (the southern hemisphere winter) plans were laid down to record the fourth volume in the series of compilations released to promote this genre. The members of the band, under the leadership of Jack Momple, headed to the studio to experiment with a concept, producer Patrick Lee-Thorp calls "musical democracy". The band featured, Jack on drums, Errol Dyers on guitars and Stephen Erasmus on bass, plus some of the new names in the scene, Ramon Alexander on piano and Mark Fransman and Kyle Shepherd on saxophones.  A second round of recordings for the same album took place in February 2013, this time Jack and Ramon were there but Spencer Mbadu took up the bass. Overdubs were by former Pacific Express keyboard player - since become a celebrated jazzman in New York - Tony Cedras, Louanne Stone, Dizu Plaatjies and Stephen Erasmus.

As with many of the successful acts released on the label, the management of their live performances was undertaken by the mother firm, Lee Thorp Entertainment (LTE).  They saw to it that the music released was performed on stage.


The CJB at the Sunset in Paris May 2009, L to R, Chris Engel, Hilton Schilder, Stephen Erasmus and Carlo Fabe.
(c) Songwrights Publishers

In the case of the Cape Jazz Band project, Patrick teamed up with drummer , Jack Momple to run a loosely constructed band under the name, The Cape Jazz Band (CJB). The group in different formations, were booked to perform in different parts of the world both live and to record.


The CJB in France (circe 2008). L to R, Kyle Shepherd, Jonathan Rubain, Alex van Heerden and Jack Momple 
(c) Songwrights Publishers.

Part of the idea behind the CJB came from Robbie Jansen who believed in taking talented youngsters into the line-up of his groups, and introducing them to the genre. He called it, "passing the message on". In fact the first outing of the CJB was to step in for Robbie who was too ill to fly to the gig.


Robbie Jansen's group on tour,  in Zurich (circa 2006). L to R, Jack Momple, Hilton Schilder, Stephen Erasmus (kneeling), Robbie Jansen and Alex van Heerden. (c) Songwrights Publishers. 

The ensemble pictured above was also known as the Sons of Table Mountain. They recorded with Robbie on a number of occasions being responsible for numerous works which have become Cape Jazz classics. Jack and Robbie were also members of Basil Coetzee's Sabenza band, who contributed tracks to the first CJ compilation albums.


To be continued ...
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Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Mountain Records - The Artists

The Artists

The music of the artists released on the label over the 32 year history spans a wide repertoire base, but most the music released on this label came from artists based in the Cape.  

The first signing by the label was a singer-songwriter, Dave Nissen. David Nissen was a David Bowie-esque figure with a folk/pop repertoire and an image to go with it. The first single, Falling in Love was a catchy and musically well performed song sung in his dramatic style. The idea was that Dave would be doing an album and as money became available the artist went into the studio with Patrick Lee-Thorp and worked on the songs.

The signing of the label's second artist distracted our attention and things got delayed on Nissen's recordings. The studio had the habit of re-using the 2-inch recording tape and without asking the label studio engineer Gerry Barnard erased the work on Nissen's album before we managed to get to completing it.

This was not a very auspicious start.
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The second signing was, David Kramer - Legal name, David Julian Kramer. His first 6 albums and accompanying seven singles were issued on the label, and produced jointly by Lee-Thorp and Kramer. All of the albums and several of the singles reached Gold or Platinum status.

Label owner Lee-Thorp had heard about singer-songwriter, David Kramer but only decided to sign him to the label after a show at a folk festival in Mynardville, Cape Town. Kramer was not a professional musician at the time and had no recordings to his credit.


Kramer and Mountain 's first platinum album. The Story of Blokkies Joubert.
Pic (c) Songwrights Publishers

Kramer is best remembered for the songs Hak Hom Blokkies and Royal Hotel, both of which appeared on the EP pictured above. The Mountain team together with musicians, concertia player, Eddie Wilkinson, bass player, Phil Smiedt, and others and the promo people at EMI turned these releases into the biggest SA crossover (English/Afrikaans) hits of all time.

When the artist and the label parted ways, Kramer was a household name in the entertainment scene in South Africa and Mountain Records was well and truly on the map in the record business. Only at this point did Lee-Thorp license the Kramer productions to EMI, who then re-issued them on their label.

To be continued ......
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Jonathan Butler - Born, Jonathan Kenneth Butler was a child star signed to the hit making machine of Clive Calder Productions. Jonathan's big hit, Please Stay, was perhaps remembered more than the boy who sang it. When Patrick Lee-Thorp signed him, securing a release from CCPs, Peter Snyman, also his de facto manager, Jonathan was considered a bit of a problem for his original label. This was all prior to Patrick starting Mountain Records as the label.

His new manager had arranged for him to join the group, Pacific Express, also managed and produced by Lee-Thorp and arranged for Jonathan to record with the band on their third and somewhat jazzy, album entitled Expressions. The band had lost their main composer with the departure of Chris Schilder and lead guitarist, Issy Ariefdien, so Butler slotted in pretty easily filling both rolls and doing a lot of the lead vocals for the group. The album was co-produced with Tully McCully, the successful artist/engineer/producer at his Spaced Out Sound Studios in Cape Town.

In an attempt to get a wider market for Pacific Express, Lee-Thorp and some of the group, met up with Calder in his new location in London to try and interest him in releasing the album. He recalls Calder being interested and surprised at Butler's contribution to the record but turned down an involvement with the band and Butler.



Left to right - Jack Momple, Paul Abrahams and Jonathan Butler in London circa 1979. 
(c) Songwrights Publishers .

Back in SA Lee-Thorp saw that Butler was brimming over with talent that was making its presence felt in both negative and positive ways. We put Jonathan in the studio and produced a seven single, Put my Love Away and were surprised when Jonathan wanted to play all the instruments except the saxophone, played by Robbie Jansen, on the sessions. The record was Jonathan's first released on Mountain Records.

Lee-Thorp sent Pacific Express to Johannesburg for a club residency. The milieu had good and bad sides. On the positive side it aroused the interest of respected producer, Hendrik Koloi Lebona, in working with the group but with Butler as the act. They went into the studio with Jack Momple on drums, Tony Cedras on keyboards, Paul Abrahams on bass plus several supporting players and singers, and Jonathan on guitar - mostly acoustic guitar. The ensuing album with title track 7th Avenue, later became an album release on Mountain Records and in a way part of Jonathan's ticket to international recognition.

The new album was sent to Clive Calder in London again, followed by meeting with Lee-Thorp and after chasing Calder to New York for a breakfast meeting at the local diner on the east side, Calder indicated that he would take on the artist, for the second time in Butler's career. But nothing was signed.

On his return to SA Patrick Lee-Thorp met with Jonathan Butler where Jonathan promptly informed him that he was going to be a gospel artist and was not leaving South Africa. But Lee-Thorp had other plans and offered Jonathan the chance to do a gospel album for Mountain while he worked on the deal. The result was a collection called Crossroads where Jonathan played more than half of the instruments on the album. This was a title that reflected the gospel content as much as the state of his career, but it also gave birth to a track called Jesus is alive in Africa, a mix of which without vocals, was stylistically similar to 7th Avenue was named Crossroads. Although he did not know it Lee-Thorp had the first two Cape Jazz tracks to appear on Mountain, in his hands.

We also put Jonathan into the studio to do his first production job, namely producing the Tony Schilder album, Introducing Tony Schilder, with engineer Manlio Celotti. A second project where Jonathan worked with another of Lee-Thorp's artists by the name of Lesley Rae Dowling was also put together to get him familiar with the production side of things before his pending launch into the big league. Butler and Dowling co-wrote several songs and Jonathan worked with engineer Kevin Shirley on an album called, When the Night Comes. This killed a bit of time while we worked on Jonathan's deal with Zomba.

Armed with Crossroads and 7th Avenue albums Lee-Thorp again flew to the UK to "put the deal in the bag". Jonathan meanwhile went on a gospel tour of the Cape. Clive put his partner, Ralph Simon on the case and together with legal affairs man at Jive/Zomba, Paul Katz, a publishing and recording deal was hammered out with Lee-Thorp. The deal involved Mountain giving up certain publishing rights and re-recording restrictions but he returned to Cape Town with a signed contract which Jonathan duly inked. A few months later Jonathan was in a New York studio with the cream of the US east coast jazz session players, under the production of Barry Eastmond.

...... to be continued.

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Robin Auld - Robin Morton Auld - Robin is a singer-songwriter who started out in the late 1970s, doing the Cape Town pub circuit solo and with other musicians including Steve Walsh. Patrick Lee-Thorp heard the duo when they did an impromptu audition at his offices. He remembers being very impressed with the duo, who did a rendition of Marley's, No woman no cry in a Taj Mahal style. However he did not sign the act (though we released a couple of tracks by Steve Walsh on the label). Auld later had his debut release with WEA record company in Johannesburg.


Robin Auld circa 1993, London dockyards, Photoshoot for the Love Kills album sleeve. (c) Songwrights Publishers

Producer, Kevin Shirley brought the masters of a follow-up EP now under the name Robin Auld and Z-Astair, to the Mountain label offices. We were impressed with song writing, performance and production and put the  record out. It was however the follow-up single, Baby you been good, that was made into a hit. Shirley heard the strong melody of the song - which started life a Smoking Ganja - and asked Robin to do a re-write.  The All of woman single was to follow this and became Robin's big hit. Two albums, Ocean Motion which included the hit singles, and Live in Cape Town, were to follow on the label.

Robin moved to London shortly after the release of the live album and went back to his solo career. In 1993 he agreed a deal with Patrick, now based in Germany, to release a new album. The record, entitled Love Kills was a mixture of re-recordings of songs done for other labels and new songs. It was produced by Murray Anderson (the former keyboard player of Z-Astaire) and Robin but was not issued on the Mountain label, choosing rather Tin Can Discs, a rock label owned by Lee-Thorp's new German firm.
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Amampondo - Mzikanthu Plaatjie (leader) - Known as Dizu Plaatjies.

As a group of street buskers, Amampondo performed in the street in Greenmarket Square, in front of our offices. They were not to be released on the Mountain label until a few years later when Mountian and GSE Claremont Records collaborated under the name Mountclare. The group's first manager, Bruce Gordon, did consult Lee-Thorp on management and record release matters though.

The bands first studio album, An Image of Africa - also later becoming a DVD, was the groups biggest hit. Produced by Lee-Thorp and Donald Graham of GSE, Image started a long association between the labels, resulting in re-issuing of live recordings of Amampondo made by Donald, Feel the Pulse of Africa and Uyandibiza on CD, and the bands second studio album Inyama, under the joint marquee.

What we later identified as money troubles and squabbling between two factions in the group resulted in the players splitting off into two bands.


Dizu Plaatjies, circa 2004. (c) Songwrights Publishers

As a solo act Plaatjie - going under the name, Dizu Plaatjies and The Dizu Plaatjies Ibuyambo Ensemble, Dizu made two albums for Mountain. The first entitled Ibuyambo - A musical Journey through Sub-Saharan Africa and the second, African Kings, which was awarded a SAMA Award for best alternative African album released in 2005.

Actually Plaatjies has had a long and fruitful relationship with label boss Patrick Lee-Thorp. Patrick acted (and continues to) as manager for Dizu and his Ibuyambo Ensemble, for many years. It is one of the principles of the label to get involved in the management of the artist particularly with specialist artist such as Dizu whose record releases are as much a part of his career development and marketing as a performer as they are financial investments in the business of record sales.

Today Dizu is possibly the most respected and certainly, internationally, the most widely know South African world music act. He has performed in Japan, SE Asia, Middel East, Eastern and Western Europe, USA and Canada and in many different African countries in his 30 year career.



Dizu Plaatjies (Second from left)  and band, live in Paris in 2009. (c) Songwrights Publishers

Dizu has also collaborated with numerous recording artists not on the Mountain label. These include folk musicians to electro dance acts, though his own solo recordings remain traditional or neo-traditional works.

to be continued ....
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Coenie de Villiers - Coenraad Gruber de Villiers. Known as Coenie was introduced to Mountain by David Kramer who had toured in a show that Coenie also appeared in. Coenie drove down to Cape Town from Bloemfontein, where he was based, and after a short audition in the studio Patrick Lee-Thorp decided to sign him. What caught his ear were Coenie's special command of Afrikaans lyrics and his strong linked piano and vocal style. He was also impressed with the artistic vision the artist had for his career. Coenie, who had a classical music background, was given a great deal of freedom in co-producing and even designing the sleeves for his records.


Coenie de Villiers, circa 2005 (c) Songwrights Publishers

Coenie would go on to record 6 albums for Mountain and to win many awards for these. His signature song, Karoonag formed the theme for a compilation of his work on Mountain under the title, Karoonagte and this was his most successful release, still selling 25 years after first issue.

His debut release Skoppensboer, set the tone for all of the de Villiers productions to follow for Mountain. Lee-Thorp was looking for a "hand made" feeling. Coenie rehearsed a rhythm section back in Bloemfontein and brought them to the mother city. Star sound engineer, Kevin Shirley, was paying his dues as a rookie but nevertheless showed his talent behind the desk on the album. There was very little programming and many label mates were called in to contribute with "real playing". These included, Jonathan Butler, David Kramer and Steve Newman.

The follow-up releases were, Die Reisiger, Crossroads,  Amper Alleen and Hartland.

One of the most interesting productions was done while Coenie was living in Cyprus in 1989 / 90. He pulled together a folky Greek ensemble from players doing the nightclub circuit. Rhythm tracks were recorded in Nicosia in a small studio, fuelled by Turkish coffees ordered from the local cafe. It was the first production for Lee-Thorp which was completely digitally recorded and for this a portable recorder was brought to the island. This however enabled Coenie and him to move on to Athens to finish the album where the vocal tracks and mix was done. The result was Amper Alleen (translated Almost Alone) , which reflected Coenie's isolation from his homeland and the nature of the recording, with Coenie doing most of the overdubs in the Athens studio himself.

.. to be continued
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Robbie Jansen - Robert Edward Jansen - Robbie was a singer and brass player for the group Pacific Express when Lee-Thorp met him and they worked together on the album Black Fire by the group. This was not release on Mountain but rather licensed as part of the EMI label group. Lee-Thorp was also present at the session for Dollar Brand's Manenberg where Robbie and others later linked to the label played, and made a mental note to try and work with Robbie, which he did on a Jonathan Butler recording a short while later.

Robbie, Jack Momple and Kader Khan approached Mountain with the idea of recording an album and this was completed after a long recording process with production contributions from Tully McCully and released on the sister label, Sea Records. Lee-Thorp and Jansen hit it off well and he could see in Jansen a cultural activist as well as a jazz man. The debut album, Vastrap Island was actually a ground breaking release and was one of the early defining Cape Jazz records.


Robbie Jansen (far right) , with the Sons of Table Mountain at his record launch circa 2006. Pic Kurt Ackerman, 
(c) Songwrights Publishers

Jansen was to make two other albums for the Mountain, The Cape Doctor and Nomad Jez. He died of a respiratory complication in 2010 before realising his dream of international recognition as a live performer.

Patrick Lee-Thorp said of Robbie, " He was a truly amazing artiste. His excellence was in his ability to read the situation musically in a second. He was a wonderful saxophone player, and vocal stylist and arranger of extraordinary ability. Add to this his feeling for his cultural roots in the peoples of the shores of Cape Town, before the settlers arrived, and the way he spiritually incorporated this into his life and playing, the result is for me overwhelming. He simply lived too fast for those of us around him. "

..to be continued
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Zayn Adams and Pacific Express - Moeghamad Zayn AdamZayn was the lead singer and percussionist of Pacific Express. A solo star on the stage in this own right, he joined Pacific Express in about 1975 shortly before they began recording under the bands name.

Pacific Express were a jazz-rock band in the mould of Blood Sweat and Tears and later Earth Wind and Fire. Their live repertoire was mostly covers of American songs and Zayn was perfect for the job, particularly the ballads.


Pacific Express circa 1978,  LtoR, Issy Ariefdien, Chris Schilder, Jack Momple, Paul Abrahams, Vic Higgins, Paddy Lee-Thorp (manager), Zayn Adams. (c) Songwrights Publishers


However their original material was more jazzy and funky than the commercial material required for the clubs. Odly enough their first hit single, Give a Little Love, was a R'nB Ballad penned by keyboard player, Chris Schilder. Although many of their recordings were co-produced by Lee-Thorp, the actual band material did not appear on the Mountain label. Zayn's solo recordings did.

Zayn's biggest success on Mountain was the track, You Gotta Live, penned and produced by Tully McCully. Tully went on to produce more tracks for Zayn making the albums, Love is a Poison and  The Voice. Tully, together with producer/arranger, Murray Anderson (formally of Z-Astaire) also completed a soul tribute album for Zayn, entitled, Soul Spirit.

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Basil Coetzee - Basil Mervyn Coetzee . Basil was one of the brass players in Pacific Express. His main instrument was tenor sax and he played flute as well. He was also part of Dollar Brand's (1) band that toured the university circuit in 1975 at the end of which Dollar's seminal Cape Jazz song, Manenberg was recorded. He got the nickname Basil "Mannenberg" from Dollar because of his contribution to that recording.

A number of years later Basil, Robbie Jansen, Paul Abrahams and Jack Momple approached the label with a project they called Sabenza. An album of the same name was completed, recorded by Kevin Shirley. The album, marketed as Basil, "Mannenberg" Coetzee's Sabenza, was a regional hit in Cape Town particularly because of the danceable jazz content. It was also an early indicator for a new repertoire direction for Mountain Records.

The songs on the 6 track album were contributed by different band members. Pianist Michael Martin brought the melody of CT Blues and Basil turned it into what has become a Cape Jazz standard. Basil's own Song for Winnie (which evenyone at the time thought was written for Winnie Mandela, was in fact a dedication to township saxman, Winston Mankunku, a fact only disclosed by Basil several years later,) gave Robbie space to work his magic on the sax section playing. Basil added a Dollar Brand composition, Mama, which almost did not make it onto an already short album due to rights clearances delays.


(c) Songwrights Publishers

The sleeve was a classic photo design favoured by the label, featuring Basil and bass player, Paul Abrahams and the car of the young graphic designer, Bruce MacMillan, a neighbour of Patrick's in Observatory, Cape Town, who would go on to design other sleeves for the label.



Basil Coetzee at his last photo shoot. (c) Songwrights Publishers.

Basil was a performer with a committed socio-political agenda. He was also realistic about the SA music business and his expectations were measured. He again approached the label to record a second album. Basil would record ultimately three albums for Mountain, Sabenza,  Monwabisi (with Paul Abrahams) and B (with Errol Dyers).

The Monwabisi project started well but was left somewhat in the air by Basil and Patrick had to pull in some session players to try and complete the tracks. Some tracks were just not far enough developed to use. Notable was the wonderful Basil Coetzee composition, Umlazi, which Patrick wanted Robbie Jansen to play on but Basil did not like the idea. As a result the track did not make the album and was only finished later when Robbie put on the alto sax harmonies that it so badly needed, becoming one of the gems on the Cape Jazz compilation.

Basil and Robbie had an uncanny ability to read each other's playing literally as things were being created. They knew each other's style so well that they could play a piece in perfect sync after only one listening.

Patrick commented, "The making of Monwabisi (2) was somewhat stressful because of the artist's temperament and him having distanced himself from the most of the Sabenza line-up for personal rather than professional reasons, though this was never clearly stated. And I was also left without an engineer part of the time, because of personnel changes at the studio, during the recordings and had to take care of that side of it myself for some of the sessions. Basil would come to the studio and then disappear onto the roof for a smoke while the studio clock ticked. Those were strange times".

Despite this Monwabisi had some real high points. His call to exiled musicians who were overseas to Come on home, and his Song of David had references to Basil's strong Christian roots. At one point in the process of the production he asked Patrick to pay his royalties to his church, later changing this request.

During the sessions Patrick had brought a penny whistle to the studio and asked Basil to play it, having told Patrick that it was his first instrument, learned in his days growing up in District Six. The result was a short piece improvised by Basil and guitarist James Kibby that was put on the disc. Pianist Paula Goldstone made a substantial contribution to the songs she played on though it was never clear how much joint arrangement and composition there was with Basil. Bass player Paul Abrahams' contribution to the project was central, being the only player other than Basil, to feature on all ensemble tracks. Many of the songs were part of their duo repertoire that Basil and Paul presented live, simply the two of them.

The third album, B was an altogether different scenario, which in the view of the label, was his best work. Though retrospective in subject matter, it was at the same time contemporary. B was released in Germany and only imported back to South Africa sadly only after the artist's death. The mixing process being delayed by Patrick now being based outside South Africa. Basil could only work in short spells on the recordings. Unknown to the label, he was suffering from lung cancer. The compositions were well prepared and some arranged with a modern funky approach. This time Basil was prepared to use different session players suggested by us.

Essentially B was a project between Basil and Errol Dyers, though Errol only got to contribute 2 songs. Like his duo with Paul Abrahams, Errol and Basil toured together. There were no low points in the album. Basil's tribute to the cult band, Spirits Rejoice, was a fine 10 minutes of 1970's style jazz. The funky, Liberation, featuring Paul Abrahams was an update on their Pacific Express days together.

The pattern of first releasing in Europe, where the CDs were manufactured, became a trend for the label which had started with Amampondo's Inyama album. Basil's albums were also licensed for release in the UK and USA.

Basil was one of the acts that we as a label had little to do with when it came to live shows. We promoted the releases and the artists in the media. He would be very spontaneous in his planning simply telephoning Errol a day or so before they left for a tour and he never made difficult demands of the promoters so often characteristic of touring artists. We supported where requested, specially on the upsetting dealings with the political committees vetting the bona fides of South African players wishing to tour internationally.

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Jean Bosco circa 1988

Jean Bosco Mwenda - Mwenda wa Bayeke. Lubumbashi based, Bosco, as he was known was a star in East Africa, when he came to perform in Cape Town. Lee-Thorp had the good fortune to meet up with him and get him to the studio to record several of his best songs, with just guitar and vocals.

The idea was to flesh out the production with local session players but the tracks in their sparse form had a great deal of charm so the record, entitled Mwenda wa Bayeke - African guitar Legend, was released as it was recorded. It was first issued by Mountain in Germany and licensed to Rounder Records in the USA.

Bosco who was the father of the Shaba finger picking guitar sound, died in a car crash in 1990.

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Morris Goldberg  - Morris worked with Lee-Thorp in 1975 when the New York based artist toured SA with the Urban Jazz  Band project. The band Morris toured with included, Cecil Ricca on drums, David Bravo on keyboards and Marc Duby on bass. The group recorded some of their repertoire following the tour but sadly not for Mountain Records, a fact noted by Patrick Lee-Thorp at the time. He said he began to see the need for a Cape based record label following the UJB tour.

Morris was born in Cape Town growing up in Observatory. This alto sax player had worked with many of the jazz local jazz musicians in the 1960s before heading to the USA to study. He had recorded a number of his own records released by different labels and was notably one of the 3 sax players on the Dollar Brand Manenberg recording. He understood Cape music.


Morris Goldberg and Patrick Lee-Thorp, 2012. Pic Glen Robertson

On one of his visits home he performed at the Baxter Theatre with Tony Schilder, Cecil Ricca, Gary Kriel, Merton Barrow and others. The young engineer, Kevin Shirley recorded the show live and this time for Mountain, who issued a double LP entitled Jazz in Transit,  later re-issued under the same name, becoming a CD of most of the tracks taken from the original release.

Morris went on to work with many exiled South African performers live and on record, in New York. He also recorded with Paul Simon on the Graceland album.

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Tony Schilder - Anthony Schilder, comes from the talented Schilder musical family.  As band leader performing in the nightclubs of the city he hosted hundreds of local soloists. Tony was a piano player in the old jazz school style of the 1940s and 50s, but he was also acutely aware of the rhythms and melodies of the Cape.


Tony Schilder (c) Songwrights Publishers

For his debut album we put Tony onto the studio with engineer Manlio Celotti and young guitarist, Jonathan Butler (acting as musical producer) and he came up with the album, Introducing Tony Schilder. Actually Tony had been performing for 15 years professionally but he got on with Lee-Thorp who managed to twist his arm to record for Mountain. The album was a regional hit, displaying Tony's compositional and arrangement talents. Initially issued on vinyl only, the album was re-issued as Trio with most of the repertoire from the vinyl release (but not all due to a deterioration of the master) plus a couple of new tracks.

Tony was always well dressed and polite. For many years he played solo piano in the smartest hotels in the country, and this earned him the nickname around South Africa - the Gentleman of Jazz.

In about 2004 Tony went into the studio to make his second album for Mountain entitled, B Positive (B+), also his blood group. This time produced by Lee-Thorp and featuring Tony's son Hilton, Ivan Bell , Robbie Jansen, Gary Kriel, Ian Smith, Sammy Weber, and others.

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Hilton Schilder - The son of bandleader Tony, began banging drums on the kit of his Dad's drummer, Monty Weber, at an early age and became pretty good at it. But like his father Hilton was destined to be a keyboard player. Having survived a shipwreck off the Cape coast, where he was resident drummer for the cruise, her turned to the keyboards - synths and handheld  - as well as the piano.

Hilton record a lot for Mountain but mostly in other peoples bands. He also wrote a fair amount of material for other artists. Perhaps the most influential collaboration was with Robbie Jansen. After contributing to two Jansen albums it was Hilton's turn to do a solo album for Mountain. Entitled No Turing Back, it feature Robbie on a number of tracks. Hilton was at this stage not precious about the production and agreed to a lot of suggestions and edits made by producer Patrick Lee-Thorp.


Here the original sleeve artwork depicting him as a "bad boy". The front was changed for the European release.

The album which was also is solo recording debut was well received by the critics and garnered an SAMA Award nomination in the best Jazz Album category.

Hilton was to record more for Mountain including another Robbie Jansen album and tracks for the Cape Jazz 3 compilation.

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(1) Dollar Brand = Abdullah Ebrahim. At the time he was known as Dollar.
(2) The name of a beach spot near Basil's home in Mitchell's Plain, designated by the racist government at the time as being for Coloured people only 

Not final text - To be continued.

(c) Songwrights Publishers 2012

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Mountain Records - We Made them Famous (well we tried).

Mountain Records played a major role in making a number of Cape (South Africa) based artists "famous". What ever the artists may tell you, we can promise that most of them were largely unknown as recording artists, and in most cases as live performers as well, when we stepped in. Making them famous (perhaps not single handed) is our speciality! Of course not all releases were a success but in all cases we raised the profiles of the acts concerned. What follows (not chronologically) is the ongoing story as we saw it.

We had a motto from the beginning, that we were the first to adopt  - Local is Lekker. The label is owned by Patrick Lee-Thorp who credits the idea of the motto to multi-talented, theatre director, actor and writer, Pieter Dirk Uys, who Lee-Thorp had worked with a few years before. He can not remember if Uys put it in these exact words however Mountain used the phrase and popularised it with their first major successes.

To begin with Mountain Records product was manufactured and distributed (a P&D deal as it is known) by EMI in South Africa.  All of the signing of acts, production and marketing was controlled by the label, based in Cape Town. One on the companies owned by EMI, CCP Records based in Johannesburg, were responsible for Mountain product within EMI and the label enjoyed a good relationship with the unit particularly with the promotions department (in the person of Andy Darlington) who played a central role in the "breaking" of some of the first acts on the Mountain Label.




Original airbrush artwork for the Mountain Records label logo by designer Neil Durbach done in 1980. 
Pic (c) Songwrights Publishers 1980

Following the establishment of a base in Germany in 1987 the label began to manufacture CDs and as there was no CD plant in South Africa at the time, the CD product was imported into the country. This changed the deal with EMI who continued to make the LP and Cassettes. At the same time Aris, a devision of BMG Germany began to distribute titles issued on Mountain Records and the sister label, Sea Records.

Later on the two labels were registered with the German GVL, the official register of labels in the country. Mountain got the label code (LC) 6107 and Sea Records LC6108.


 


To be continued ...
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The artists - were: (Not in order of signing).

David Kramer - Legal name, David Julian Kramer.
Jonathan Butler - Born, Jonathan Kennith Butler.
Robin Auld - Robin Morton Auld.
Amampondo - Mzikanthu Plaatjie (leader).
Coenie de Villiers - Coenraad Gruber de Villiers.
Robbie Jansen - Robert Edward Jansen.
Zayn Adams and Pacific Express - Moeghamad Zayn Adam.
Basil Coetzee - Basil Mervyn Coetzee .
Jean Bosco Mwenda - Mwenda wa Bayeke.
Morris Goldberg  -
Tony Schilder - Anthony Schilder
Hilton Schilder
Celso Fonseca - licensed.
Tony Bird - licensed
Beanstalk
Andre de Villiers - licensed
Ekwesi
Abasindisi
Dizu Plaatjies
Zeebra
Dave Nissen
Teri Lynn
Cliff Benton
Schalk Joubert - licensed
Kurgan - licensed
Soul Brothers - licensed
Brenda Fasie - licensed
The News


Not final text - To be continued.

Cape Town indie record label - Mountain Records

Mountain Records

Mountain Records, this one anyway, is the longest surviving indie record label in Cape Town. In fact it may the the longest surviving active (still making releases) indie label in South Africa. When we say indie, we mean independently run by people not working for a major company. Other local indie labels which come to mind are Dave Marks', Third Ear label and Lloyd Ross', Shifty Records.

Since Patrick Lee-Thorp started the label in1980, there have been a number of Mountain Records labels arriving on the scene.  This is the blog of the oldest (as far as we know) still active, Mountain labels anywhere in the world.

We know of only one other Mountain Records that existed when we started (though when we started we did not know about them - if that makes sense). They were a UK based record label and we were South Africa based.

The mountain referred to in the label designs and the inspiration for the name is Table Mountain in Cape Town. Table Mountain is depicted in different ways in the designs of the label over the last 32 years. The original version of the current design was done by Clive Helfet.

Some of this blog was written in 2000 (before blogging) when we saw that some parties were simply sucking things (our history) out of their fingers, particularly about the role of Mountain in the creation of the musical careers of our acts and background to the label itself.  We did not publish that material at the time.

The staff of Mountain Records at the height of its busy phase, in 1982 to 1985, while occupying a floor of Market House in Greenmarket Square, Cape Town, was owner and boss Patrick Lee Thorp, known as Paddy, management assistant and 2IC, Rosalie Katz, known as Rosie, Candy Horn (the wife of a session player, Gary Horn) in accounts and Coleen Nama (singer in one of the bands we were working on), doing admin. Promo specialist, Andy Darlington was representing the label in Johannesburg as a freelancer.

From the end of 1992 the management of the label moved to the UK and in 1996 to Germany, though throughout the 32 years of existence the label has maintained an office in Cape Town and has concerned itself almost exclusively with African music or music inspired by Africa.

Policy - It has always been the policy of this label to be free of state or party political influence. We have never been funded by any commercial sponsors, regional or national governmental agency and have never sought such funding. This does not mean that the management do not have political preferences but the driving forces have been broader social priorities and commercial considerations.

Mountain Records grew up in the time of the so called cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa. While opposed to the political system in the country, as demonstrated by many of the label releases, the management of the label was also opposed to the undemocratic way in which the boycott was applied, further disadvantaging already disadvantaged artists. The lack of support from the ANC government in post apartheid South Africa, for many of the artists whose careers were sacrificed by the likes of the so called "cultural desk" and other groupings not even in SA, was the source of a great deal of bitterness among many of the recording artists who worked with the label.

Contact - mount.rec@gmail.com


PLEASE NOTE - this entire blog page - all the posts hereon - is a work in progress and is edited as we get time. NO PART HEREOF MAY BE REPRODUCED WITHOUT PERMISSION OF THE LABEL.