George Danquah – Hot and Jumpy
197?, QuaMi Records (Reissued by Secret Stash, 2011)
By Grant Austin
“Who the hell is this guy?” A common utterance upon first hearing the one and only solo LP from George Danquah, ‘Hot and Jumpy’. That such a masterful artist could materialize out of the ether and vanish was hard for long distance fans of highlife to understand. Close investigation reveals clues of who Danquah was and what influenced this fantastic album.
Though scarcely documented, Danquah was a member of the Legendary Uhuru Dance Band in the early 70’s. This gave him experience with horn arrangements. He honed his highlife guitar chops playing with Jos Asante and the Professionals, while maintaining more traditional guitar work in the band The Jewels. At some point during this time he joined in a dream lineup, a group that I can scarcely fathom, the only tangible evidence of which (that I am aware of) is a nearly nonexistent 7″. The Blue Monks. George Danquah, Ebo Taylor, Andy Vans, Pat Thomas, PeeDee Dynamite, and international sax session player Ray Otuh Allen. In the golden age of music these players would meet up on Wednesday nights at the Mecca of Highlife in Accra, the Tip Toe Garden, and blow minds I imagine. There are rare recordings of Ebo Taylor and Pat Thomas at the Tip Toe, but official Blue Monk sessions are of almost mythic rarity.
If this was released in ’77 as some speculate, it would be an early example of African Reggae as a descriptor. I wonder how much Ray Allen played a part in bringing this concept to W. Africa, as he worked on Toots and the Maytals ’76 release ‘Reggae Got Soul’, Rico’s ‘Man from Wareika’, and Kiki Gyan’s (from Osibisa) debut solo LP, ‘Afro Reggae’. Self described
“African Reggae” became somewhat more common in the 80’s, but before that Jamaican influence was less acknowledged. I am definitely reminded of The Light of Saba on this album, maybe Ray Allen’s work on ‘Man from Wareika’ influenced Danquah’s horn arrangements? Ethiopian influence by way of Jamaica? It certainly has more in common with Wareika sounds than the more Middle Eastern sounds I know of Ethiopia. I searched and failed to find an easy link to the track that most reminds me of IM Brooks, titled simply ‘African Reggae,’ but there are subtle hints throughout. Funkier than Saba, I realize now that I have not made clear the funkiness of this album. It is funky. Pretty Funky.
This got reissued back from obscurity in 2011 by Secret Stash, and there are many copies sitting around in stores I think, not because it was mass released, but because it doesn’t sit comfortably in any genre bin, and has less of a Wow! cover than a Huh!? cover if you know what I mean. Secret Stash did a really nice job with these, they are hand numbered on the back (not sure how many) and they did 100 in pink.