Following the April 2022 reissue of the album Shrimp Boats, We Are Busy Bodies presents companion titles Plum and Cherry and Deeper in Black to round out a Lionel Pillay and Basil Mannenberg Coetzee “trilogy” as part of the label’s As-Shams South African jazz archive series. The connection between these three albums is tight as the 1987 release Shrimp Boats compiled unreleased recordings from both the 1979 session for Plum and Cherry and the 1980 session for Deeper in Black. These two rare records have been carefully remastered from their original tapes and are back in print for the very first time in over 40 years.
Shrimp Boats and Plum and Cherry capture the extraordinary musical chemistry that existed between pianist Lionel Pillay and tenor saxophonist Basil Coetzee in the late 1970s. The respective album showpieces “Shrimp Boats” and “Cherry” each occupy an entire side of vinyl with both exquisite musical journeys clocking in at an epic 25 minutes a piece. While “Shrimp Boats” was an instrumental reimagining of the popular 1951 song by American singer Jo Stafford, “Cherry” drew inspiration from Abdullah Ibrahim at the behest of producer Rashid Vally, who wanted to emulate the success of the famous track that had helped launch his independent As-Shams/The Sun record label in 1974. Ibrahim’s hit “Mannenberg” had also featured Basil Coetzee and it was this zeitgeist South African jazz recording that had given rise to his stage name.
Capturing the grace and vitality of working-class township life on the city fringe, “Cherry” channels the type of laid-back Cape groove that Abdullah Ibrahim, recording as Dollar Brand, introduced to South African jazz in the 1970s. On the flip side, “Plum” appears to take its own simple chord change in the same direction before breaking into a chugging 20-minute romp that verges on proto-electronica and on which Pillay hangs all manner of savage keyboard riffing and experimentation. The two distinct flavours of Plum and Cherry make for a well-rounded platter with an iconic cover featuring the work of abstract expressionist painter and As-Shams/The Sun collaborator Hargreaves Ntukwana.