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Louis Moholo-Moholo Unit

Photo kindly provided by Esther Cidoncha

“Confirms Moholo-Moholo’s presence on the scene as a blast of fresh air.” John Fordham, The Guardian

The great Louis Moholo-Moholo returns to the UK from South Africa for one of his celebrated Vortex nights, having most recently visited for a sold-out performance at the London Jazz Festival. Tonight he reconvenes the Unit for its first UK performance in more than a year.

Featuring Henry Lowther (trumpet), Alan Tomlinson (trombone), Jason Yarde and Ntshuks Bonga (saxophones), Alexander Hawkins (piano) and John Edwards (double bass) alongside the leader, the group’s repertoire includes many classics from the book of the legendary Blue Notes – Mongezi Feza, Dudu Pukwana, Chris McGregor, Johnny Dyani, and Moholo-Moholo – as well as tunes from many other seminal groups driven by Moholo-Moholo’s drums (Spirits Rejoice, The Brotherhood of Breath, Viva La Black).


Louis Moholo-Moholo was born in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1940. After early success with his band The Chordettes, he went on to become the drummer for the now-legendary Blue Notes (a band which also featured Mongezi Feza, Dudu Pukwana, Chris Moyake, and Johnny Dyani). This band arrived in England in 1965, and was to have a profound influence on the jazz and improvised music scenes not only in that country, but also in Europe more generally.

In the mid-1960s, Moholo-Moholo toured South American with Steve Lacy, recording with him ‘The Forest and The Zoo’, widely thought to be the first ever fully improvised album. Returning to the UK, he joined Chris McGregor’s newly formed Brotherhood of Breath, a big band which stunned audiences around Europe with their own highly individual sound. Many other high profile groups, all featuring Louis, drew personnel from this iconic band, amongst them Mike Osborne’s Trio (with Harry Miller), Miller’s own Isipingo, Elton Dean’s Ninesense, and various groups led by Dudu Pukwana.

Moholo-Moholo also led one of the most exciting groups of the time – the mighty Spirits Rejoice, featuring Evan Parker, Radu Malfatti, Nick Evans, Kenny Wheeler, Keith Tippett and the twin basses of Harry Miller and Johnny Dyani.

During the eighties Louis toured America with Peter Brötzmann’s trio, and continued to work throughout Europe leading his own groups and developing many musical partnerships, including duos with pianists Cecil Taylor in Berlin, and Irene Schweizer in Switzerland.

Another important milestone in Louis’s career was the forming in 1990’s of his nine-piece band “Viva-La-Black”, which became the first group to tour South Africa, arranged by the British Council, as the lifting of Apartheid and freedom became imminent. More recently, he has been heard in duo with Wadada Leo Smith, as well as leading his ‘Unit’.

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