Lionel Pillay - Deeper in BlackLABEL: We Are Busy Bodies
Lionel Pillay's broad list of associations is a testament to how widely respected he was in South Africa's diverse jazz scene.
In addition to his work with Mankunku, he played with Hugh Masekela in the early 1960s, produced the exquisite long- form recordings Shrimp Boats and Cherry with Basil Coetzee in the 1970s and collaborated with trumpeter Murray Campbell and saxophonist Bez Martin in the 1980s. However, is it with his 1980 album Deeper in Black, backed by core members of the jazz-fusion supergroup Spirits Rejoice, that his legacy was cemented.Deeper in Black was inspired by the 1969 Blue Note recording of American trumpeter Blue Mitchell entitled Collision in Black and took its name from Pillay's cover of the album's Peggy Grayson composition. Pillay's album featured another two compositions from Collision in Black by way of the Monk Higgins track Keep Your Soul, with distinct arrangements straddling Side A and Side B, and Vee Pea's Jo Ju Ja closing out the set. Although the source material was over a decade old when Pillay recorded his album, Collision in Black had struck a chord in South Africa with its frst pressing in 1969 and even seen a local repressing in 1978. Blue Mitchell owed much of his popularity in South Africa to a six-week tour with saxophonist Harold Land in 1976. It was during this time that As-Shams/The Sun producer Rashid Vally seized the opportunity to record the Dollar Brand album Blues for a Hip King with Mitchell and Land backing Abdullah Ibrahim. Although the recording and release of Pillay's Deeper in Black coincides with Blue Mitchell's death in May 1979, the album was not explicitly promoted as a tribute but did certainly offer a respectful nod to the esteemed trumpeter who was among the few American jazz heavyweights who managed to connect with the South African scene during the Apartheid era.