Jonathan Butler – Ubuntu (2023) [FLAC 24bit/44,1kHz]

Jonathan Butler - Ubuntu (2023) [FLAC 24bit/44,1kHz] Download

Jonathan Butler – Ubuntu (2023)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/44,1 kHz | Time – 56:28 minutes | 642 MB | Genre: Jazz
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Artistry Music

Legendary singer-songwriter Jonathan Butler traveled back to his home country of South Africa to craft his most exciting and deeply personal album to date. Featuring producer/bassist Marcus Miller, Ubuntu is a reintroduction of Butler’s life story, going back 60 years to his upbringing in apartheid-era Capetown, which shaped his world view, prompted years of advocacy and instilled the ideology of ‘Oneness’ (Ubuntu). Featuring special guests Keb’ Mo’ and Stevie Wonder, the new album serves both as a rebirth of musical creativity and reconciliation with systemically biased history to forge a brighter future.

“I am, because you are.”

Ubuntu is the universal Bantu philosophy adopted by South Africa as a guiding principle after the abolition of apartheid.

Ubuntu encompasses the interdependence of humans on one another and the acknowledgment of one’s responsibility to their fellow humans and the world around them.GRAMMY®-nominated singer-songwriter/guitarist Jonathan Butler drops a new album called Ubuntu after a five year hiatus via Mack Avenue Records on April 28th. The title of the album might need some explanation. Butler was born in Athlone, Cape Town, in 1961, barely six months after the March 21, 1960, Sharpeville massacre. These were the darkest days of apartheid in South Africa, when racist apartheid pass laws restricted every aspect of life for Black South Africans, who were forced to carry a passbook at all times. On this day police officers opened fire on 5,000 and 10,000 injuring thousands and killing 69 people who had peacefully converged on the local police station, offering themselves up for arrest for not carrying their passbooks. It was on March 26 that Nelson Mandela along with many others would burn their passbooks openly in protest against the Sharpeville massacre and where he and others were arrested after what was a treasonous action, resulting in what would be a 27 year prison sentence on Robben Island. Jonathan Butler was nearly two-thousand KMs away in his own segregated Athlone which was designated a so-called colored area at this time, but this context affected the lives of every South African whether Black, white, colored or Indian, the system would define the lives of everyone. By 1994 with the pressure of sanctions and an armed struggle, apartheid was toppled, Nelson Mandela was released and a Truth and Reconciliation Commission led by Rev. Desmond Tutu tried to make peace with the past. It was at this time that Tutu suggested a way forward with forgiveness as the central tenet and the old Bantu philosophy of ubuntu was reinstated into the consciousness of the world. This is the background to the title of the new album by Jonathan Butler which draws inspiration from this Bantu philosophical principle.

In the past he struggled with identity due to the complexities of living as a South African artist in politically driven exile as his music was being pigeonholed by the U.S. music industry, back and forth between r&b/jazz, smooth jazz, jazz fusion, and gospel. Since his early start singing for whites-only paying audiences in Athlone, Cape Town as a teen idol in 1975 with his first album I Love How You Love Me, he somehow held in the hope that one day he would be comfortable in his own skin. With this new album he has found his true voice by staying the course and sustaining a highly productive and successful career outside of South Africa, pumping out a mind boggling 28 studio albums, live albums and compilations for close to 50 years. He has wielded a subtle influence on upcoming musicians all over the world and was recently awarded a South African Legend award. Today he stands as an authentic man finally comfortable in his own skin and the years of work have paid off in what seems like an effortless collaboration with those he admires. His new studio album Ubuntu, recorded in a record-breaking three days was produced by the American musician, songwriter and record producer Marcus Miller. Marcus is best known for his work as a bassist and resuscitated the careers of trumpeter Miles Davis, pianist Herbie Hancock, singer Luther Vandross to name a few. Marcus has a gift for lush arrangements and bringing out the best in every musician he works with. I had to listen to the new album over a few weeks, going back and forth to each song, mulling over the subtle textures and echoes but here is my humble review of the album.

The album has local South African musicians opening with a unique interpretation of the classic Superwoman (Where were you when I needed you last winter), by Steveland Morris AKA Stevie Wonder. In a call and traditional response version assisted with the lyricism of South African gospel singer Ntogozo Mbambo, this cover is inflected with strings that does not diminish from the original classic. This opener confirms the deep respect that Stevie Wonder has for Jonathan Butler and his music, where the great maestro himself adds his signature harmonica solo to the track. Butler has been blessed in this way. Following this soul-stirring cover is the title track “Ubuntu,” and it will have you stepping into the progressive groove, where Miller´s musical toolkit is inspired with a South African twist.

The third track, “When Love Comes In” is a Mississippi Delta-inflected love song featuring blues singer Keb’Mo, an American revivalist and five-time Grammy Award winner who is also singer, guitarist and songwriter, living in Nashville, Tennessee. By track four we remain with what Jonathan has perfected over time which is a classic love song with “No Tomorrow,” where lush chords and progressions and his signature guitar phrases fit hand in glove with his vocal tenor. The next track, “Bon Appétit,” is an instrumental and a syncopation of echoes of Africa expanded with a scatting motif. This form of vocal improvisation is as old as the African continent itself, found in the trance singing of the San people of southern Africa. This form is adopted in recorded music most prominently in jazz music with the likes of Louis and Ella and adopted by many including George Benson. Jonathan has been employing this vocal technique for years by inflecting South African vocal tones and he has developed an African musical language all of his own.

The sixth track “Rainbow Nation” is an anthem, interpreting another term coined by Archbishop Desmond Tutu to describe post-apartheid South Africa after the country’s first fully democratic election in 1994, to inspire the continued healing of South Africa. What is great about this track is that Marcus Miller, outstanding bass player that he is, gets to play musical tag with Jonathan in this refreshingly beautiful melody with fragments of his native Cape Town Jazz fully apparent to the trained ear. Back to focusing on Jonathan’s guitar storytelling instrumental on the next track “Peace in Shelter,” co-written and performed with sophisticated composer and keyboardist Russell Ferrante of Yellow Jackets fame, is dense with an orchestral aesthetic reminiscent of Alhambra and Mozart and everything in-between. This is where Jonathan illustrates his capacity to embrace sounds from anywhere in the world and his work with the most innovative musicians in the business. Wrapping up the album, with the last four tracks he puts himself firmly back in Cape Town of his youth with “Coming Home,” “Springtime in Afrika,” both with Marcus Miller sharing the melody. Jonathan has the ability to create in any genre and also takes us into the hypnosis that is the reggae ride of “Silver Rain,” destined to be the certified hit on the album. “Our Voices Matter,” the final track inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement brings us full circle back to the concept of Ubuntu, influenced by his own life events and the events following the public lynching of George Floyd, reconciling the world to respect the humanity of Black people ending the album on a note called hope. It is such irony that even with his enormous success, the ghosts of racial segregation and apartheid still haunt but here in the U.S., as he recently experienced a confrontation at the Goose & Gander restaurant in St. Helena, California.

I had the honor to sit down to speak to Jonathan Butler over Zoom about his unique spiritual and musical journey and return to his roots in South Africa with this album Ubuntu.


01. Jonathan Butler feat. Stevie Wonder – Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You) (04:58)
02. Jonathan Butler – Ubuntu (05:04)
03. Jonathan Butler feat. Keb’ Mo’ – When Love Comes In (04:14)
04. Jonathan Butler – No Tomorrow (04:52)
05. Jonathan Butler – Bon Appétit (05:19)
06. Jonathan Butler – Rainbow Nation (04:02)
07. Jonathan Butler – Peace in Shelter (05:10)
08. Jonathan Butler – Coming Home (04:48)
09. Jonathan Butler – Silver Rain (07:04)
10. Jonathan Butler – Springtime in Afrika (05:14)
11. Jonathan Butler – Our Voices Matter (Bonus Acoustic Version) (05:37)

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