Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Township Jazz 'n' Jive [Music Club, 1997]
Before mbaqanga's stomping bumpkin intensity swept the townships, small jazz-style ensembles played indigenous tunes with a South African beat you could jitterbug to. This is that music, the same urbane mode cherry-picked so infectiously on the Mandela soundtrack: the swinging jive of the '50s, when social dancing was a passion in every slapped-together apartheid ghetto. Far suaver than mbaqanga or kwela yet no less African, far simpler than Count Basie or the Mills Brothers yet no less artful, it implied an indoor space even if it couldn't always find one big enough for its spiritual ambitions. Its matchless buoyancy is mostly a matter of two learned rhythms coming together. But it evinces an unsinkability nobody would ever puncture. A