Jonathan Butler is perhaps one of the most intriguing icons in smooth jazz today. His story is such a rich one, full of encouragement for all aspiring and established musicians alike. His guitar and stirring, full-throated vocals embody that story, and, if you’ve had the grand experience of seeing him perform live, you can bear witness to the electricity, the intensity, and the unbridled joy this man both brings to and receives from his audiences. This is the man Nelson Mandela credits with his inspiration while imprisoned for decades in Butler’s native South Africa. Speaking of live performances, Live in South Africa, a homecoming of monumental proportions, does serious justice to the man, his music, his story, and his life as one of the most buoyant and talented artists around.
You get immediate chills from his opening tune, the classic "Afrika," which is thunderously followed by his cover of the exuberant "If You’re Ready," that rousing call from the Staple Singers back in the 70s, then followed by such treasures as "On My Knees," the tune on which he often invites a member of the audience, if not the entire audience, to participate (I once personally and gleefully participated in that fun challenge!), Marley’s riveting "No Woman No Cry," the ever-popular "Song for Elizabeth" and, of course, no live Butler performance would be complete without a "Sarah, Sarah" moment.
For those who have not had the great fortune of seeing, feeling, experiencing Butler live, you owe this to yourself in a huge way. This is not just another well-skilled performer going through the motions to earn his keep. Every note, every word, every chord is meant to revive, excite and motivate you into participating, if only in your own head, in what will undoubtedly turn out to be a smidgen of time that’s destined to be part of your whole musical experience for the rest of your life. He has just that capability. This live album brings testament to that. Witness the breathtaking motion that is Jonathan Butler and be very glad that you can capture just a piece of this highly spiritual phenom in such a well-produced album. I can only imagine the loving reception by his native comrades upon his return to this land rich with his and their memories. What a party that had to be!