This album contains very pleasant ballads, tone-poems, and melodies – without a lot of improvisation or frantic cornering of melodies to reach their resolve, but with soft, thinking episodes. A mixture of ‘jazz’ genres, with hints of modern fusion, gospel, and a bit of funk, makes this first CD of drummer CapeTownian, Claude Cozens, not just a winner but fun to listen to! He and his fellow Cape musicians, pianist Kyle Shepherd, and bassist Benjamin Jephta, grew up together, and speak the ‘same musical vernacular’, as Kyle says in the album’s sleeve. What could be musically tighter? As Kyle said, in his interview with a Bush Radio presenter, Nigel Vermaas, “It’s bizarre that Claude isn’t playing more around town. Jephta is another one you don’t see much.” And this, coming from a well-travelled Kyle who knows what rewards hard work can bring.
“Fynbos Spirits” starts this album with a church gospel sound and a bass rhythm keeping pace to the treble runs of Kyle’s electric fusion. Drums become prominent, as though announcing nature’s grand gift of the Cape’s fynbos. This is a tuneful gem! Likewise, with “13 Corfu Ave”, a tribute to where Claude used to live. One hears a nice contemporary fusion, again with pronounced, but not over-powerful, drums.
The cover song “Jubilee Jam” is joyously repetitious with Kyle’s Rhodes keyboard, following the prescription of Cape Ghoema rhythms of the bass. Claude uses only sticks, and no brushes on this piece. It is meant to convey jubilation and joy…for nothing, really. Continuing the jubilee spirit is “Overflow”, an energetic contrast to the quieter songs in the album. “Platkop” features the bass with piano treble and clanging drums and symbols, like celebratory church bells. A monologue by the bass explains this energy. Claude’s upbeat refrain, again, gleefully expresses gratitude for abundance received. That’s so terribly hopeful in this day ‘n age!!
Influenced by the Bob James-ish modern fusion, Claude is searching for this modern sound as part of his journey of discovery. “Electric Street” features Kyle on electronic keyboard which resonates with lovely clear, almost pure, runs in the upper treble. His other ‘fusion’ with subtle ghoema beats is heard in “Song for Peninah” with its enduring electric bass solo. The very melodic “Hangberg Mountain” has that mix as well.
“Baden Powell” is a pretty memorial to a great hero of a noble cause. A tuneful duet between the bass and piano suggests a deeply spiritual dialogue going on. Claude’s brushing and popping make this very listenable piece the most beautiful one in this album, I think!
“Love Stain” is a slow, mercurial piece that makes you think of what might have gone wrong, inspite of the lovely solos from the bass and piano. Another gem.
“Mr. English” is dedicated to fellow musician and trumpeter, Darren, driven by memories of Claude and Darren’s time together in Norway as students. This is celebratory, with eager refrains from the trio individually and collectively. One can almost hear Darren’s funky trumpet in appreciation!
“Cape Lion” has an interesting bass dialogue with energetic drums again, while piano runs scurry into the soundscape. Is the lion stalking? Is Claude romanticizing the past? “When I saw that huge lion, I saw an image very powerful. I imagine early Cape Town beaches with those lions prowling around, once upon a time,” Claude says in his interview with Vermaas on the latter’s Bush Radio program (9 September 2014). It’s nice to hear a bit of fancy in jazz, I think!
Some pieces end with long repetitions by the instruments while Claude makes his points with drums and cymbals gleefully announcing the final refrain. After all, he says, he wrote his music for the drums.
Could this first CD by a CC sampler? With more to come…….?