Just over 43 years ago a friend convinced Harry and I to start a record label to record Harry and the bands that he was working with. Why ? The major record companies were not interested in documenting the music of this era, a release also helps promote the bands and the music, so it was a sound and logical reason so we thought why not!! Dick Hodge, our friend, offered the initial funds, and a family friend, Keith Beal a recording engineer, with his wife, Liz, a designer, contributed their skills.
A live recording of the Brotherhood of Breath concert at the Willisau Jazz Festival launched the label in September 1974. After spurring us into action Dick had to leave and I thank him for his insight and encouragement. Keith’s skills as a recording engineer were a great asset, dragging equipment to venues not totally suitable for recording, managing to capture that essence of a live gig and producing some exceptional results, such as “Border Crossing” at the Peanuts Club, venue for many memorable nights of music, OGCD015; “Ovary Lodge” at Nettlefold Hall, South London, OGCD021; “Blue Notes In Concert” at London’s 100 Club, part of the Box set OGCD024-028; produced as a limited edition , now out of print; “Voice” at the Phoenix, another London venue for contemporary music, subsequently released on the FMP label.
Not all the releases were live recordings: “Blue Notes for Mongezi” was a produced in a studio overnight. A musical farewell from the remaining Blue Notes after the Dedication Service, in remembrance of Mongezi Feza who had died tragically in 1975; Ogun promoted Keith Tippett’s “Ark” at the Round House, Camden, after this highly successful concert a studio recording produced Ogun’s first double LP.
At this time we formed Ogun Promotions to organise concerts, tours, even a nine-week series of Jazz River boat specials on the Thames. It was quite an achievement getting a grand piano on to the boats, and a rare experience to hear music that is not usually associated with river boats! These concerts included artists and music of, Derek Bailey, Harry Miller, Willem Breuker, Trevor Watts, Mike Westbrook, Mike Osborne, Stan Tracey, and Elton Dean, amongst others,
with Lol Coxhill - The Master of Ceremonies.
It was such a busy and productive time, organising a weekly jazz club, Grass Roots in Stockwell, South London; a jazz summer school, with a stellar group of tutors; promoting various concerts at Lambeth and Islington Town Halls; Concerts featuring three areas of improvised music/jazz, with Steve Lacy/ John Stevens, Albert Nicolas/Sandy Brown; and the Brotherhood of Breath, in the garden beside the large Budda at the Victoria & Albert Museum, part of the Val Wilmer photographic exhibition.
Forming Ogun was all part of these activities and conviction, it took over our lives, we were not aware just what a commitment this would become. Harry was a musician and that came first, of course, so releasing albums, hustling for gigs and tours, running a family, even having to carry the deliveries 1,000 LPs a time up three flights of stairs, contributed to this total take over! We were gaining a good reputation around the world and the Ogun family was adding members and covering many different aspects of this wonderful music. The influence of the South Africans and the development in Europe of improvised/jazz music during the late 1960s/early 1970s was a truly creative era. We all agreed that this music should be captured on vinyl for posterity. As it turned out, thank goodness we did, as this music would have been lost in time, but is safely within the Ogun archive, tapes for future releases.
Louis Moholo-Moholo is now the sole survivor of our original South African family, and in dedication to his creative brothers who died in exile a Blue Notes Memorial Trust Fund was set up by him, Hazel Miller, Evan Parker, Steve Beresford, and John Jack. Two CDs were produced with the support of Nimbus and Virgin Records, and concerts presented to raise funds to help young musicians in South Africa. The artists/arrangers involved in the Dedication Orchestra along with many friends helped make this possible – another example of the family feeling and commitment we have all been a part of. The money raised for this project has, so far, contributed to supporting 3 students, at Cape Town University to study Jazz Music, also to ensure the music of these fantastic musicians will be available for future generations.
At the beginning of the eighties due to other commitments, Keith and Liz were unable to continue their work for Ogun, Harry was now living in Holland, but I was determined that the label would continue. I began working with John Jack at Cadillac and between us we have continued our commitment to release new recordings and material from the archives of Ogun and Cadillac.
This period saw the launch of Ogun on CD – the debut into this medium, as we had done on vinyl, was the release of “Live At Willisau” by Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath, OGCD001 with extra music.
The catalogue of CD releases now, as of 2017, has reached OGCD046, with a new release in the pipeline later this year,
Louis Moholo-Moholo ‘s “4 Blokes” with one other so it will be “ 5 Blokes”.
Thank you for your support over the years and in the future, keep music live
OGUN RECORDING LTD