A short post to finish the year in style. And what better way to round off a year* than with two records by Franco and the O.K. Jazz.
I assure you music does not get a lot better than this. These four tracks, composed by Franco himself and recorded on February 18, 1960 for Editions Loningisa, are among my absolute favourites, - and not just of the early work by Franco.
The songs stand out for several reasons. First the line-up is unique, with the departure of Vicky Longomba (first to join Kabasélé at the Table Ronde and then to start his own orchestra: Négro Succès). To replace him Mulamba Joseph a.k.a. Mujos had joined the O.K. Jazz and he is the Vicky-like voice in these songs. Isaac Musekiwa too had defected in July the year before, after Franco had been imprisoned for a traffic offence; he had joined Orchestre Vedette Jazz but returned to the O.K. Jazz at the end of 1961. He proved difficult to replace, and I am not sure who is playing the sax in these songs. The O.K. Jazz did engage others such as trumpet player Dominique Kuntima, better known as Willy (who is perhaps best known for his time with African Jazz and African Fiesta), and clarinetist Edo Lutula a.k.a. Edo Clari, and in 1961 Albino Kalombo (who had gathered fame alongside the great Léon Bukasa at Ngoma).
On guitar Franco was joined by Bombolo Léon a.k.a. Bholen, who had been recruited by Vicky, as had been singer Hubert 'Djeskin' Dihunga. Both were later persuaded by Vicky to join him at Négro Succès.
But the most impressive new recruits to the O.K. Jazz were two singers. First a singer of considerable repute: Gérard Madiata (whom you may remember from his songs with Kongo Jazz). He is the star of that immortal cha cha cha "Cuando Paradi", - and this while only singing backing vocal!
The second is Jean Munsi, better known as Kwamy or - in those days - Coimy. As Gérard Madiata in "Cuando Paradi" he adds that very special something to the equally immortal boléro "Caro Simon Mabanzo", even though he is not the lead singer. His velvet voice is the secret ingredient to one of Franco's most exciting boleros.
But star of these four tracks is of course Franco himself. In "Mobembo Ya Franco Na Wele" he is tiptoeing, in "Cuando Paradi" he is cheekily doing pirouettes. In "Mobali Asundoli Ngai Na Mwana" he is in charge and leading the orchestra, dictating breaks and turns. But "Caro Simon Mabanzo" sees the master in his natural environment: the boléro. He adds an extra dimension to the song, adding tension, joking, coaxing, provoking, in short: being Franco.
It doesn't get better than this........
For a limited period these tracks can also be downloaded in FLAC-format: Lon 267+268
I wish you all a very happy and successful 2013!
* or for those in more eastern time zones: to start the new year!
Cheikha Rimitti - 1989.March.10 - Rasa Utrecht
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