Johnny Dyani

Johnny “Mbizo”, Dyani, was born into a musical family. He began singing and playing the piano in a traditional choir as a child. He switched from singing to playing the piano at 13 and then to playing bass. Later, he would also use his voice and keyboard. After hearing him perform with Tete Mbambiza, Chris McGregor hired him to form the Blue Notes. The group left the country in 1964 after playing at the Antibes Jazz Festival. They then played in Zurich and London. Dyani toured Argentina in 1966 with Steve Lacy’s band, and recorded The Forest and the Zoo (ESP). He was a member of Don Cherry’s trio, along with Okay Temiz. In New York, he sat down with McCoy Tyner. He formed Earthquake Power in 1971 after collaborating with Alan Shorter (Tes Esat 1970) and Abdullah Ibrahim. Dyani, Mongezi Feza, and Temiz co-founded Xaba the following year. He was very active in Europe, performing with Han Bennink and Irene Schweizer as well as with visiting American free-jazz musicians like Leo Smith, Joseph Jarman and Don Moye. His Witchdoctor’s Son group recorded with John Tchicai and Dudu Pukwana for Steeplechase. He also recorded with Swedish and Brazilian musicians at Cadillac (Witchdoctor’s Son together, 1980). His quartet included Don Cherry (Song For Biko, Steeplechase), Pukwana (1981, Mbizo, Steeplechase) and Butch Morris (1681, Grandmother’s Teaching, Jam). Clifford Jarvis, drummer, recorded his duo (African Bass and Red 1979). His septet/octet also recorded two albums together with Charles Davis (Afrika, Born Under the Heat), both released in 1983. Detail was his 1980s trio with John Stevens, saxophonist Frode Grjerstad and Bobby Bradford on the cornet. Detail Plus was also recorded with Bobby Bradford. Angolian Cry (Steeplechase), his 1985 album, was a quartet featuring trumpeter Harry Beckett as well as Tchicai. Johnny Dyani, who had just performed in Berlin a year earlier, died suddenly. Allmusic

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