Brotherhood of Breath

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The Brotherhood of Breath was a big band created, in the late 1960s, by South African pianist and composer Chris McGregor (1936–1990), essentially an extension of McGregor's previous band The Blue Notes.

The Brotherhood of Breath included many members of the South African expatriate community resident in London, including McGregor himself, Louis Moholo, Harry Miller, Mongezi Feza, Dudu Pukwana, (occasionally) Johnny Dyani; and many of the free jazz musicians who were based in London at the same time: Lol Coxhill, Evan Parker, Paul Rutherford, Harry Beckett, Marc Charig, Alan Skidmore, Jim Dvorak, Mike Osborne, Elton Dean, Nick Evans, and John Surman. The personnel was fluid, depending on who was available.

The original Brotherhood Of Breath ended in the late-1970s, with the deaths of Mongezi Feza and Harry Miller (whose label, Ogun Records, released some of the Brotherhood's albums.) McGregor formed a second version of the group in France in the early-1980s, adding European musicians, including a number of French jazz musicians (François Jeanneau, Louis Sclavis, Jean-Claude Montredon, Didier Levallet).[1] In 1987, a third edition was formed with African and British musicians such as Annie Whitehead. In this incarnation the music was more tightly arranged and controlled, with less free improvisation.

The music resembles a mixture of the hard-driving blues of Charles Mingus and the wild experimentalism of Sun Ra, but retains a unique feel due to the South African influences and the intelligent arrangements.


  • Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath (RCA Neon, 1971)
  • Eclipse at Dawn (1971; Cuneiform Rune, 2008)
  • Brotherhood (RCA, 1972)
  • From Bremen to Bridgewater (1971/1975; Cuneiform Rune, 2004)
  • Travelling Somewhere (1973; Cuneiform Rune, 2001)
  • Live at Willisau (Ogun, 1974)
  • Procession (Ogun, 1978)
  • Yes Please (In and Out, 1981)
  • Country Cooking (1988)
  • En Concert a Banlieues Bleues with Archie Shepp (52e Rue Est, 1989)


  • Maxine McGregor: Chris McGregor and the Brotherhood of Breath: my life with a South African jazz pioneer. Bamberger Books, Flint, MI 1995; ISBN 0-917453-32-8
  • ^ "Brotherhood Héritage". François RAULIN piano composition european jazz (in French). Retrieved 2017-12-03.