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Dora Lewis

PHIL’S PICKS: Sunnyside Records Succeeds With Its Re-Issue Of OJOYO’s Debut Album

Musician/composer Morris Goldberg is marking a special anniversary this week.  He is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the release of Ojoyo’s debut album, Ojoyo Plays Safrojazz.  Originally released in 1996 not long after he formed the group, the record is scheduled for re-issue Friday through Sunnyside Records.  Considering that a quarter of a century has passed since the album’s initial release and the limited availability of that record, its re-issue is itself a positive.  This will be addressed shortly.  The liner notes featured within the album’s packaging adds to the appeal.  This will be discussed a little later.  The production used in this presentation rounds out the album’s most important elements and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted is key in its own way to the whole of the album.  All things considered, they make the album a presentation that despite being a re-issue is still a work that any jazz fan will agree is worth hearing.
Sunnyside Records’ forthcoming 25th Anniversary re-issue of Morris Goldberg’s debut Ojoyo record, Ojoyo Plays Saferojazz is a presentation that any jazz fan will find interesting.  That is proven in part through its general presentation.  The record’s forthcoming release apparently marks the first time since its debut that it has been re-issued.  That is unlike much of the music out there from Goldberg’s fellow jazz acts and artist and even from so many mainstream acts.  What this means is that audiences who might be more familiar with Ojoyo and its work will not feel like it has been watered down so to speak.  Rather, it might serve to encourage audiences to purchase the album if they do not already own the record, even with the album featuring all of the same content from the album’s original release.  Far too often, artists and acts re-issue albums just for the sake of satisfying contractual obligations, but looking at all of this, that clearly is not what happened here.  Rather, it was merely a celebration of a record that apparently had been difficult to purchase up until this point.  Keeping all of this in mind, there is no doubt as to the importance of this aspect, even as minimal as it might seem to be on the surface. 
The fact that this album has not seen multiple re-issues since its initial release (unlike albums from so many other acts mainstream and otherwise) makes the record special in its own right.  It is just one part of what makes the record successful.  The liner notes featured in the re-issue add to the album’s appeal.  This applies for audiences who are familiar with the record and new audiences alike.  The liner notes in question are brief, but still go a long way toward making the album engaging and entertaining.  That is because the background that they add plays directly into the enjoyment of and appreciation for the featured arrangements.  Case in point is the information provided about ‘Cape Doctor.’  Goldberg points out in the brief description that the song’s title came about as he thought about the positive effect of a strong wind that makes its way through his former home town of Cape Town, South Africa.  He notes that when the strong wind ends “the feeling of spiritual cleansing is palpable. Hence the name “Cape Doctor.”  The gentle strains from the piano, bass, and saxophone, along with the subtle use of the wind chimes does so well to illustrate that sense of calm and cleansing.  Just understanding that and hearing this song may in fact bring listeners to their own inner peace.  It is just one example of the importance of the liner notes.
The liner notes that explain ‘Dolphin Jive’ are more proof of the notes’ overall importance.  Goldberg comes right out and explains that the arrangement here was inspired by years of watching dolphins “play” in the Cape Town harbor.  He notes watching the dolphins’ movements and how that inspired this light, almost bouncy arrangement.  The use of the organ and the saxophone alongside the drums makes the arrangement easily comparable to works from Jimmy Buffet.  Considering that Buffet is anything but a jazz artist, such a comparison is itself makes this song (and album) that much more interesting, especially taking into account the liner notes that explain the song’s basis.  The light, relaxed vibe expressed through the song does so well to really conjure thoughts of dolphins swimming around, playing with one another in the coastal waters, even here in the United States.  Keeping all of this in mind, it is one more example of what makes the album’s liner notes so important.
The liner notes explaining how ‘Station Road Strut’ came about is yet another example of the importance of the re-issue’s liner notes.  Goldberg explains here that the arrangement came about as he thought about certain groups making their way past his then home in Cape Town, and the celebratory sense of their music and very presence.  That positive sense is so well translated through the musical arrangement featured here.  The five-minute-plus composition sounds more like something that came right out of the 1970s, what with its saxophone line, bass, guitar, and percussion.  That is not a bad thing, either; Quite the opposite as a matter of fact. It conjures thoughts of vintage Weather Report and Yellowjackets.  At the same time, the African percussion influence is just as evident here.  The whole is such a happy, upbeat composition.  The use of the flute (or possibly Goldberg’s penny whistle) adds even more to the joyful sense exuded by the arrangement.  So again, here is an example of the album’s liner notes setting the stage for the album’s songs.  The music does in fact reflect the comments in the brief notes.  That makes for even more appreciation for the songs whether listeners are hearing the songs for the first time or the first time in 25 years.  To that end, there should be no doubt as to the importance of the album’s liner notes.  They play their own important part to the whole of this album’s presentation.  They are just one more important part of the record’s presentation, too.  The production presented in the album rounds out its most important elements.
The production used in this record is important because it is updated, so to speak.  Rather than just presenting the album in its original take from a quarter century ago, the production has been updated, with plenty of remastering done throughout.  The remastering is obvious, what with the clarity in the sound in each song.  The bass line is so clear along with the subtle percussion elements, for instance.  The saxophone line cuts through just as well, too.  At other points, the keyboard lines, which serve as their own support elements of sorts, add their own touch to the presentation thanks to the remastering that was done for this re-issue.  Audiences will better understand the overall impact of the remastering when they hear this record themselves.  That understanding will add to even more appreciation for the record and its general presentation.  Taking that into account along with the impact of the album’s general presentation and liner notes, that collective makes clear why Ojoyo Plays Safrojazz is a successful offering, even being a re-issue.
Sunnyside Records’ re-issue of Morris Goldberg’s debut Ojoyo record, Ojoyo Plays Safrojazz is a surprisingly positive offering from all involved.  That is proven in part through the record’s general presentation.  Audiences get the exact same presentation here, in terms of content, that was presented 25 years ago in the album’s original release.  What’s more, this forthcoming presentation seemingly the first time since that original release that the record has been re-issued.  That rarity makes the re-issue that much more special.  The liner notes that are presented in the re-issue’s packaging are brief but still do well to help set the stage for the songs themselves.  In listening to the arrangements, audiences can really grasp the comments that Goldberg made of the songs in the liner notes.  The remastering (production) presented in this re-issue rounds out the most important of the record’s elements.  It ensures that every part is heard clearly.  That ensures the record is just as appealing for its sound as for its content.  Keeping all of this in mind, each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the album.  All things considered, they make Ojoyo Plays Safrojazz a rare re-issue that is actually worth owning.  The record is scheduled for release Friday through Sunnyside Records. 
More information on this and other records from Sunnyside Records is available online at: