Armitage Road is the only album that The Heshoo Beshoo Group recorded during its brief existence. Founded in 1969 by alto saxophonist Henry Sithole, the South African band disbanded two years later. The band also included Stanley Sithole (Henry’s brother) on tenor saxophone, Nelson Magwaza on drums, and two musicians who had previously played with the eminent pianist Abdullah Ibrahim: bassist Ernest Mothle and guitarist Cyril Magubane.
The latter, who’d had polio since childhood, is the man in a wheelchair that can be seen on the record cover. This photograph was actually a nod to the Beatles’ Abbey Road photograph released a few months earlier. The social commentary is effective: you don’t need to be a keen observer to notice that life on Armitage Road in Soweto must have been very different from the Fab Four’s in London.
After hearing a track from the band on a compilation, Eric Warner, who runs the Toronto label We Are Busy Bodies, decided to re-release the 1970 album, whose half-century-old originals are still worth a small fortune on the web. It was about time, because the music it contains is great! The five members of the ensemble were all accomplished instrumentalists. The Sithole brothers were a duo of blowers who set the stage on fire, whether it was by playing brilliant melodies in unison or by sending out burning solos reminiscent of John Coltrane’s free-jazz fires. A worthy disciple of Wes Montgomery, Magubane has been a great performer on several occasions, while the rhythm section provides irresistible funky grooves.
Let’s thank Eric Warner for having found this little solar gem!