Album Reviews

Album Reviews of the latest releases and re-issues from around the global village

Sibusiso Mashiloane Moves Jazz Closer to Home: CD Review

I always thought this Durban-based jazz piano composer, teacher, and performer, Sibusiso ‘Mash’ Mashiloane, was already pretty glued to ‘home’ ethnicities from which he derives his pride in studying and presenting South Africa’s musical demography.

In his most recent album, Closer to Home (2018), we hear how each hill that he traverses exudes its own musical dialects and landscape colours. Mash draws on creative spirits like the late greats of Winston Mankunku and Moses Molelekwa, and from other communities with whom he has stayed and shared, himself being a mix of influences among Ndebele, Pedi , Zulu, and Swazi, among others. Heritage and a place for safety and truth is ‘home’, as verbally announced in his first track. One starts with the indigenous longings. The album flows towards deeper identities, breaking any molds for specific types of jazz that has developed from past masters. Mashiloane holds truth with his chordal harmonic fifths, so prominent in the musical landscape.

Mash calls for relevancy and accuracy, which are essential criteria for him to choose the musicians featured on his album. He has done this masterfully, with the likes of spirited Nigerian guitarist, Kunle Ayo, percussionist Tlale Makhene, drummer Paki Peloeole, and bass guitarist Qhubekani Mthetwa. There is the brass section as well: Mthunzi Mvubu on saxophone, Thabo Sikhakhane on trumpet and Thembinkosi Ngcobo on trombone.

Elegance of tempo and message mark the delivery of this composer’s songs. “Naima” simply and softly conveys what’s hopeful and free, through the spoken word. Renditions from pianist Moses Molelekwa are evident throughout, as in “Molelekwa Spirt” and “Ke Mashiloane” with lots of chord structures and traditional sounds. Mash honours the jazz giants, as with Mankunku’s famous “Yakhal’ Nkomo”, and “African Heart” with shades of Zim Ngqawana’s spirit-bending.

It’s Makhene’s percussive presence that hits the heart, as in “Umthandazo”, another spoken word song with Mash’s soft chordal backing, and in “Naima”. Even a twisty “All Blues” honors Miles Davis as Mash uses the higher register of his keyboard to mimic Davis’ trumpet blues, with honesty and pride.

It is no wonder that Mashiloane will soon receive his Doctorate which focuses on South African music, and jazz in particular. His first two albums set the pace for digging deeper into those home roots, as in this third album.  Amanz’ Olwandle (2016) received two Mzanti Jazz Awards as best Contemporary Jazz Album (decided by a jury) and Best Jazz Album (voted for by the public).  His second album, Rotha – A Tribute to Mama (2017) , Mashiloane eloquently combines tradition with more universal jazz styles. What might his fourth album portray, one wonders? The roots wander far and wide, and his music will thus be endless and highly educational.

Album musicians:
Sibusiso Mashiloane – piano & keyboard
Kunle Ayo – guitar
Tlale Makhene – percussions
Paki Peloeole – drums
Qhubekani Mthetwa – bass guitar
Mthunzi Mvubu – saxophone
Thabo Sikhakhane – trumpet
Thembinkosi Ngcobo – trombone
Backing vocals…..

Mashiloane performs at the Muizenberg Jazz Festival on Friday, 16 November.

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Uhadi Traditional/Synth Modern – Lwanda Gogwana Expands Xhosa jazz

Trumpeter Lwanda Gogwana finds identity through his Xhosa roots in his latest album, Uhadi Synth’(2016).

Songs ring in his native tongue of isiXhosa as he probes cultural roots, deeply exhuming the mythical. A non-isiXhosa speaker won’t feel left out when Xhosa lyrics burst out….. there’s excitement in the presentation alone. In this album, the language of jazz is a language of moods, emotions, and joys energized through traditional modalities with twists of unheard-of improvisation. That’s what Uhadi Synth is: the traditional Xhosa single stringed mouth bow, called the ‘uhadi’, made popular by the late Nofinishi Dywili whom Godwana studied at University, juxtaposed with the modern electronic synthesizer instrument.

                     NofinshiDyaiwili

But you won’t hear the actual ‘Uhadi’, just it’s interpretation as story-telling messages by several vocalists, and harmonics by Kyle Shepherd’s piano with a repetitive lower registry.

Composer, arranger and producer, Lwanda Gogwana, has composed for a number of artists and bands in South Africa. But it’s this second album which pegs his own signature to a music he has been exploring since the beginning, starting with his first album, Songbook, Chapter 1, which addressed various influences on this young master’s growth.

Gogwana explains: It’s about finding identity, now that young Black South Africans have the freedoms` to explore, harvest, and proudly spread their cultural expressions through song.

Don’t feel confused why a synthesizer enters: Shepherd is a lover of synths; he has used them concurrently with piano to enforce his love of the indigenous ghoema music of historical slave days in the Cape areas and original Khoisan culture. For Shepherd, synthesizers have a way of ‘bending’ the sounds. For instance, in “Umculo”, Shepherd’s spirit-bending chords and characteristic ghoema twist resonate with gospel nuances. Then, add the influx and settlement of Xhosa people from parts east who settled in the Cape urban centers helps to gel these sounds we hear on this album. The listener gets carried through South African jazz Standards of earlier urban sounds into a melange of more contemporary expressions from youthful inputs: tradition – meets- funk.

Vocalists, like Sakhile Moleshe, offer warm, laid-back, jazzy scats to “Qula Kwedini” with big band swing styles of the classic 1940s urbanized African jazz, and audio pronouncements about stick fighting in the olden days of Xhosa tradition among boys and men.

A stunning piece, “Yibhluz”, and the only song on the album with lyrics, sees history meet the blues: how the sordid colonial history is delivered with a diplomatic wit, which raises issues of whether society now is mirroring its past grievances. Here is a reflective tradition-meets-blues as Gogwana skilfully weaves a dialogue around Zim Ngqawana-influenced pride in culture while youth are pulled towards the secular and mundane. Xonti’s sax brings this sultry mood and sarcasm across nicely, as do the vocalists.

Sisonke Xonti at NAF 2015

Shepherd’s piano and repetitive baseline holds the uhadi form on several songs, while Gogwana’s horn echoes conversations between the rolling Xhosa hills of his homeland in “Maqundeni”. He would call this ‘a swing feel in Xhosa’. This leads nicely into “Ndiyagoduka” (I’m going home), an upbeat improvisational song with lots of trumpet triple tonguing and that uhadi-like piano supported by Amaeshi Ikechi’s bass sound. The penetration by the horns exudes an energy that leaves one quite breathless at the end of this album.

Hear Gogwana perform at the Muizenberg Jazz Festival on Saturday, 17 November 2018 at 18.30 hours.

On the album:

Lwanda Gogwana – trumpet and fugelhorn

Kyle Shepherd – piano and synthesizer
Sisonke Xonti – sax
Amaeshi Ikechi – bass
Lungile Kunene – drums
Dumza Maswana – vocals
Sandile Maleshe – vocals

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CD Review by Eric Alan – Beverley Beirne with Jason Miles Jazz Just Wants To Have Fun (2018)

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Having stated my dislike “covers” in the previous review I must add that Jason Miles has done it once again by lending his considerable production, musical and arranging skills to Yorkshire based jazz vocalist Beverley Beirne who along with Jason Miles foray into the world 80’s pop anthems and turning the tunes into future jazz standards.

I must say on first glance at the track listing before listening to a track I didn’t want to like the album but on listening to it a couple of times it was a breath of fresh air and must state the I really like this album and hope there will be another in the same vain. Beverly has a pleasing voice and the interpretations and arrangements are killer.

The album titled Jazz Just Wants To Have Fun, released earlier this year, is what I believe needs be done when an artist decides to cover the classic pops songs of past generations, ok so these are from the 80’s Brit pop era, I mean after all the Great American Songbook came about because of the pop songs over the aeons. Now we have the beginnings of the Great British Songbook. I am very happy with the track listing and the songs covered, classic pop tunes of that decade, and what a cast of musical talent put together to create this, what I would like to call a tour de force. I don’t think anyone who took to and love the pop music of the 80’s will be unhappy with the treatment given these classics. I further think the songwriters will be exceedingly happy to bolster their pensions with the royalties derived from these wonderful re-interpretations of these 80’s classic anthems. Now that’s what I call a great “cover” album, and are the new standards of tomorrow.

How clever are you? Do you think you can you name the originators of all 12 tracks?

Track Listing:

  1. Cum On Feel The Noize (3.29)
  2. Prince Charming (2.40)
  3. Bette Davis Eyes (4.09)
  4. Ghost Town (3.30)
  5. Deeply Dippy (3.11)
  6. When Smokey Sings (6.58)
  7. Cruel Summer (3.04)
  8. Pop Muzik (4.50)
  9. Too Shy (2.39)
  10. Hot In The City (2.58)
  11. Waiting For A Girl Like You (4.56)
  12. Girls Just Want To Have Fun (2.29)

Musicians:

Beverley Beirne (vocals), Sam Watts (piano), Rob Hughes (saxophone/flute), Flo Moore (double bass), Ben Brown (drums), Romero Lubambo (guitar “Cruel Summer”); Dean Brown (guitar “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”); Jason Miles (Hammond B-3 organ “Deeply Dippy” and “Waiting For A Girl Like You.”)

Label: Nova/Universal.

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CD Review by Eric Alan – Rebecca Angel (Feat. Jason Miles) Album Title: What We Had (EP)

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I haven’t done a review for some while now and today I decided that it was time to concentrate on doing so once again. I hope that I’ll be able to write at least 3 add to our website page today.

Earlier this year I was contacted by Brooklyn born and New York resident, record producer, bandleader, musician, recording artist, composer, jazz pianist and keybordplayer, manic passionate music lover and friend Jason Miles, he asked if we would like to check out two of his latest productions. Naturally the answer was yes and he sent us the two albums, both of which featured two women vocalists who I had not yet heard of. The two young ladies are Rebecca Angel’s What We Had and Beverley Beirne’s, Jazz Just Wants To Have Fun both albums were immediately added to our playlists un-listened to, that’s how much I trust Jason’s work. Our presenters, including myself took immediate liking to both of the albums.

Rebecca Angel (Feat. Jason Miles) Album Title: What We Had (EP) Label: Timeless Grooves Records
Genre: Contemporary Jazz / Smooth Electro Pop & Latin Jazz / Vocals Total Time: 32:58 Year Of Release: 2018

This album comprises of 8 tracks and on first listen captured me as a listener, well, because I do have a penchant for vocals especially female vocals. Rebecca has a wonderful voice and tells each story in a fine and beautiful style through the album. The tunes chosen for this release come for the pens of some of the greatest songwriter’s of the world with one track written by Rebecca in collaboration with her Dad, Dennis Angel and the other with the addition of producer Jason Miles. Look at the list of incredible musicians assembled to perform on the album, just awesome.

There is one thing however I personally dislike with a passion and that is “covers”, now let me qualify that by stating when any musician covers a song and nothing has been done to refresh it and make it their own having just followed the dot’s on the original chart, it becomes boring and plain bloody awful. So leave that sort of thing to wedding bands and singers.

Thankfully this is not one of “those” albums, the production team has taken it to another level totally. I mean just listen to the first track on the album, Winter Moon written by Harold Adamson and Hoagy Carmichael shows the way and how to do a cover, this continues through each track through the album. Each track is has a fresh new feel to it and is a joy to listen to. So far I have listened to and played a multitude of times. Each time I hear something new in each of the arrangements throughout the EP, well done to one and all concerned and that you for creating a wonderful body of work. I can’t wait for the next album, and that it be a full one from this team of highly talented musicians.

Track listing:

  1. Winter Moon (5:13) written by Harold Adamson/ Hoagy Carmichael
  2. What We Had (3:52) written by Dennis Angel/ Rebecca Angel/ Jason Miles
  3. Agora Sim (3:15) written by Luiz Alves/ Luizão Paiva
  4. Feel Alive (3:51) written by Dennis Angel/ Rebecca Angel
  5. Stand By Me (4:04) written by Ben E. King/ Jerry Leiber/ Mike Stoller
  6. Jet Samba (Samba Jazz Happiness) (Radio Mix) (4:08) written by Ronaldo Bastos/ Marcos Valle
  7. Stand By Me (Electro Mix) (Bonus Track) (4:03) written by Ben E. King/ Jerry Leiber/ Mike Stoller
  8. Jet Samba (Samba Jazz Happiness) (Ipanema Mix) (Bonus Track) (4:30) written by Ronaldo Bastos / Marcos Valle

Musicians – Jason Miles keyboards, Fender Rhodes, Moog bass, pads and percussion – Denis Angel flugelhorn – Gotfried Stoger flute – Haily Niswanger soprano saxophone – Sebastian Stoger cello – Jonah Miles Prendergast guitar – Christian Ver Halen guitar – Ricardo Silveira acoustic rhythm guitar – James Genus acoustic bass – Reggie Washington bass – Adam Dorn bass – Mino Cinelu percussion – Cyro Baptista percussion – Brian Dunnie drums

 

 

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Jazz saxophonist/flautist Ivan Mazuze excels with Afro/Latin/Nordic storytelling in ‘Ndzuti’ (2012)

Saxophonist and flautist, Norway-based Ivan Mazuze, has chosen a stellar set of international musicians who journey with him in his 2012 album, Ndzuti, which means ‘shadow’ in the ancient language of Xichangana of Mazuze’s native southern Mozambique.

This album has elements from both southern and West African traditions with Jazz based structures, suggesting how widely Mazuze extends his sounds while fusing northern European tonalities as well. His fellow African and Norwegian musicians reside in Scandinavian countries with guest artists like Cuban pianist Omar Sosa and the bassist/ vocalist from Ivory Coast, Manou Gallo, adding loads of sonic colour.

Mazuze’s other albums on his EM label have met with great success also: His debut album Maganda (2009) brings out his ethnomusicology training, reflecting on an exploratory journey with African ‘worlds’ of music. His articles about music and trance in ritual practices are found in the educational magazine “The Talking Drum”. Maganda was awarded the Best Afro World Group in the Oslo World Music Festival 2009, and the Best Contemporary Jazz Album at SAMA awards 2010 (South African Music awards). Mazuze’s third album, Ubuntu (2015) became highly acclaimed within the Nordic media circles and features Norwegian and South African-based musicians.

But its Ndzuti that grabbed my best ear. It was the recommended album at African Jazz Network 2012 and hailed as a key album by Music Information Center Norway (MIC) in 2012. Besides these cudos, it’s the songs themselves that shine out Mazuze’s careful melodics, zappy rhythms, and ethnic understandings of a society’s musical wizardry. He includes soukous rhythms the Congo, always full of glee and gay, danceable swings, as in “Nwana wa ku kasa” which features his Norwegian sax wife and fellow student during Capetown days, Ragnhild Tveitan, also in backing vocals. Vocalist and bass player from Ivory Coast, Manou Gallo, noted for her ‘Afro-groove’ renditions and for playing her bass like a percussion instrument, enthralls. Born in 1972, Gallo plays the tambour (percussion drums ), normally only reserved and allowed for men to play in the Ivorian culture.

Manou Gallo, vocalist and bassist

Raised by her grand-mother who was looking after her like her own daughter, Manou was rather autonomous from early on. Her newest album, “AFRO GROOVE QUEEN” is a musical love triangle and adventure between Africa, Europe and America.   Gallo helps Mazuze focus his funk, jazz and Afro groove sounds in delightfully lyrical songs that could have a healing quality to the ultra-stressed.

Hanne Tveter, Norwegian singer

One can even hear some influences from raising his two small daughters, and from the Cuban pianist Omar Sosa, or the Latin swing of Nordic singer Hanne Tveter. ‘Celina” is admirably melodious. In ‘Chant des Immigrants’, phrases are heard that come from Norwegian improvisational influences, as per Tveitan’s sax, as well as African beats from Mazuze’s home areas of Mozambique and South Africa. ‘Pe Descalco’ features Tveter’s masterful vocal scat which also provides a breathy and enticing bid in ‘Ritmo de la Vida’, with its distinct Latin salsa and bossa nova. Mazuze’s added boppish sax makes this song one of the most grabbing on the album.

Omar Sosa

Rhythmic Afro and Latin grooves abound. ‘Conversations’ and ‘Nguni’ features Cuban pianist Omar Sosa, the latter song with Nigerian high life rhythm reminiscent of Fela Kuti, with shades of Sosa’s Cuban swing thrown in! This is a bouncy piece, similar to Mazuze’s consistent style of fusing Afro-influenced sounds. ‘Mosambik’ is played in a Mozambique groove characteristic of Mazuze’s usual improv voicings. Another Oslo resident, Trinidadian singer/actor Sheldon Blackman, provides backing vocals with Mazuze’s storytelling sax in ‘Ma’gogo’.

Sidiki Camara percussion

All percussion comes from Sidiki Camara from Mali who plays djembe, doundounds, and ‘talking drums’.

 

So after all these wonderful sonic tonics whirling about, the catchy sing-along tune ‘Satyagraha’ ends the album, with ears aching for more! This is Ivan Mazuze and his crew at their very creative best.

See him perform at the upcoming Muizenberg Jazz Festival on Saturday, November 17, at the Masque Theater with local musicians. https://muizenbergjazzfestival.com/event/ivan-mazuze/

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Musical Influences abound in Saxophonist Mike Rossi’s “Journey” album (2018)

‘Journey’, which follows on ‘Take Another Five’ (2016) dedicated to Nelson Mandela and Dave Brubeck, explodes with a range of musical styles that depict multi-instrumentalist Mike Rossi’s interpretation of country, ethnic, and musical influences over his forty year dance in jazz. It is a compositional delight!

There’s a lot of Italian in this album, from low-highs to happy-sad emotions framed with impressive solos and well-coordinated horn harmonies.  Horns predominate amongst stunning solos of Andrew Ford’s piano and organ, as well as Kevin Gibson’s drums, and Wesley Rustin’s boppish double bass.  I get a bit nervous when multiple horns play in unison, often wah wah-ing over more delicate rhythms or wind instruments.  But Rossi offers mercy as his six  cherished hand-made Rampone & Cassani saxophones  gently flow through sonic themes, as in the masterful composition, Big Sax,  Conversations between  Marco Maritz’s fugelhorn and Rossi’s altello sax delight the ear.  The South African swing in KwaZulu Zam Sam covers pretty much all the talents of horn and rhythm players without overpowering.

‘Journey’ band members

Faithful to his Italian-American background, some pieces were written under the influence: Ciao Roma; Don’t Say Lazio! opens with a wistful alto flute followed by charming Latin beats of Rossi’s tenor sax and expressive drum and piano solos. Alpe Camasca, Italy commemorates a frequently visited area, home to the R&C saxophone factory. Nine movements pull the listener through different time signatures making for unexpected  moods and twists.  A tribute to snails with red wine in Cucciulitti-Snails of Fermo surprisingly features Rossi’s baritone sax and William Haubrich’s trombone, two unlikely sonic registers for such a small animal.

Family and friends are referenced in such American jazz Standard renditions as Star Dust which Rossi’s late mother loved, and to the Hilda’s of Norway in Lars Jansson’s composition, Hilda, where Rossi’s soprano sax speaks kindly about his friendships there.

Rossi stays faithful to his flutes, particularly stylishly overdubbed in the beautiful Chuck Mangione song Land of Make Believe with Rustin’s bass grounding the basic bop mixed with Latin. Never forgetting how early American jazz included the clarinet, the swing classic Shiny Stockings arranged in quartet form pulls melody and rhythm nicely together in true Count Basie style. Ford’s piano  runs are exquisite throughout.

Humour abounds:  if there’s any way to portray nausea musically, Greasy Pan Blues does it! A really fun Rossi piece, indeed.

The album ends with the well-known South African classic composition of the late Chris Ngcukana, Mra, skilfully opened by Westin’s bass which swings the band into that familiar groove, and makes one still calling out for more.  South Africa is home to the Rossi family, and one wonders what the next musical ‘Journey’  will sound like in the next decade.  I wait, enthusiastically!

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CD Review by Eric Alan – Judi Silvano & The Zephyr Band Lessons Learned (2018)

You know this album has been a bit perplexing for me to write about, it has taken me weeks to do and listen to, it has moved my thoughts and memories in countless directions. Judi Silvano’s words awaken so much of a life lived, sometimes well and um, sometimes not so well. I was forced into a corner and felt the need to listen to her very thought provoking lyrics extremely carefully. The album has become somewhat of an intense catharsis on a personal level whilst listening intently. Today, I thought I should read the PR blurb that accompanied the album by publicist Lydia Liebman, something that I don’t usually do before I start listening to and writing a review. After careful reading thought that I could not do any better therefore decided to include the full blurb. All I can say is I like the album and it has now become a permanent fixture on my iPhones playlist.

“Judi’s compositions are like her paintings – Magical!” Sheila Jordan, NEA Jazz Master

Unit Records is proud to release Judi Silvano’s new album Lessons Learned today, Friday, July 13th. Produced by Grammy Award-winning saxophonist and composer Joe Lovano, Lessons Learned features the members of Silvano’s Zephyr Band with an unusual lineup for a jazz singer: two electric guitars.  These are wielded by Kenny Wessel and Bruce Arnold who together provide orchestral settings for the songs. The band is rounded out with Adam Kolker on bass clarinet, soprano and tenor sax, Ratzo B. Harris on bass, Bob Meyer on drums and Todd Isler on percussion. Joe Lovano lends his signature sound on tenor sax to two tracks. Lessons Learned began as a mature musical compilation of personal observations on life and love, but has since developed into a statement that aims to evoke a feeling of universal understanding and respect for others amongst its listeners.

“This is one of the most inspired and fun recording sessions I’ve ever been a part of; it’s full of beautiful, joyous music!” – Joe Lovano

Judy & Joe

Parallel to Lovano’s adventurous arrangements, Judi’s writing varies from tender and spiritual to raucous and whimsical. On Lessons Learned, the vocalist – who is also credited for the painting that graces the album cover – is not afraid to bare her heart and sing of intimacy and she tackles the realities of aging with hilarious candor. There comes a point in anyone’s life that is a place of reflection; a review of a lifetime’s worth of choices and decisions. For Silvano, this point in her life marked the creation of Lessons Learned. This 10 track opus of original songs is a collection of stories from the singer’s life that have accumulated and resulted in lessons she has personally learned. By reflecting upon her own individual experiences, Silvano has been observing the consciousness of society as a whole and hopes her perspective will encourage empathy in others towards their communities.

The album opens with “Round and Round”, which is Judi’s statement of appreciation and wonder at her own life. The song’s canonic structure parallels the cycles of life. While “You Will Know” speaks to the interpersonal connections that can have an impact on how we feel about ourselves with encouragement to remember we are not alone, “Dark Things” is about self-doubt, and how even the most confident people periodically question and re-evaluate their paths. “Acknowledging our vulnerability is key to being able to adapt and grow,” says Judi. “Dust” finds Judi in shamanic mode, singing about the earth, our dependence on it for food and how rhythmic feels connect us all over the globe. Some other stand-out tracks from the album include “Hand and Heart” – a beautiful ballad about a very particular relationship – and “After Love” which, simply put, is a classic love song. The album closes with “The Music’s in My Body”, which demonstrates that Judi’s sense of rhythm and space from her years as a dancer, are always a part of her songs.

“Judi Silvano is an amazing vocalist and improviser who has been a mainstay on the New York Jazz scene for decades! Her communication with guitarists Bruce Arnold and Kenny Wessel on “Lessons Learned” is telepathic and the music they create is fresh and inspiring!” -Vic Juris, Guitarist and Educator

MORE ABOUT JUDI SILVANO
Judi Silvano has been an active presence in the New York Jazz scene since 1976, when she arrived in New York City from Philadelphia with a degree in music and dance from Temple University. Since then the roster of musicians with whom she has collaborated includes Kenny Werner, Joe Lovano, Bill Frisell, George Garzone, Mike Formanek, Gerry Hemingway, Michael Abene, Rufus Reid, Ingrid Jensen, Charlie Haden, Jack DeJohnette, Paul Motian, Manny Albam, Gunther Schuller and Wynton Marsalis. She’s performed at a multitude of festivals and concert houses around the globe including the Montreal, Paris, London, Verona, Perugia, Istanbul, Langnau Switzerland and North Sea Jazz Festivals as well as numerous clubs and concert halls in NYC. Silvano has been writing music and poetry her whole life alongside putting her visions on canvas – one of her paintings is the album cover of Lessons Learned and she has a series of paintings of Jazz Musicians in addition to other subjects.

More information at www.judisilvano.com


Have a great week, stay tuned, more coming your way

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Ghanaian Modern Jazz meets traditional Highlife – just barely!

Ghanaian jazz pianist, Victor Dey Jr, wooed audiences at this year’s Standard Bank National Arts Youth Jazz Festival in Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown), with professional musicians on stage and loads of youthful students of jazz in the audience!

Victor Dey, Jr.

The Diocesan Girls School’s large Hall hummed as this pianist fundi, backed by the improvisational wizardry of South African jazz musicians,  spinned through modern jazz tunes with a West African rhythmic twist.

With Ghanaian music always a foundation of his artistry,  this vibrant soul treats piano keys like cotton, with energy, ease, and an uncanny transparency.  His unusual rendition of jazz icon, John Coltrane’s, ‘Giants Steps’ took all by surprise: silky runs reinterpreting familiar melodies with deliberate off-notes and missed beats, all playfully executed. Another composition, “Mr. PK Ambrose”, named for a fellow bassist who featured on Dey’s first album, Makola, thrilled with its fast pace mounted by both Dey and saxophonist Sisonke Xonti whose runs also caused audience gasps.

Romy Brautenseth (bass), Sisonki Xonti (sax), Marcus Wyatt (trumpet)- Standard Bank

This piece gave all players a chance to triple their usual rhythms, with double bassist Romy Brauteseth stylishly running furiously through her strings.   I kept looking for that West African percussive beat of Ghana’s famous ‘High Life’ style, but Dey ran away with more contemporary modalities….or was it that Johannesburg-based drummer, Ayanda Sikade, dubbed in a familial Ghanaian title of ‘Nana Ayanda’,  stole the show with his frenetic drum solos which wowed all?

Afrika Mkize (left),Victor Dey Jr (middle), Ayanda Sikade (far right)

Whatever one was looking for, or not,  this gifted pianist stunned his fellow artists, like pianist Afrika Mkize, whose fits of bowing and ululations later over drinks in the Hall’s cozy outdoor (and heated) bar foyer drew obvious attention.

 

 

 

 

 

Dey’s latest album, Makola (2017), named after Accra’s main busy market, contains zesty Ghanaian rhythms mixed with jazz, funk, and Latin American, representing “the spirit of the market which is diversity, movement and business”, as Dey puts it.

Playing Fender Rhodes and other keyboards, Dey is well supported by ambitious solos of Bernard Ayisa’s tenor & alto saxophones and  trumpeter Nicolas Genest. Distinct blues, ballads, and improvisations characterise this album without much West African punch.  But there’s a reason for that, as Dey and I chatted during afternoon breaks from workshops at the Youth  Jazz Festival.

Victor Dey Jr.,  born in 1980 and being the son of a diplomat,  spent his very early years in the UK and Algeria, learning piano as well as cultural dynamics.  Back home in Ghana, he completed a Liberal Arts education, and became one of the few who delved into the world of ‘modern jazz’, thanks to occasional alignment with Hugh Masekela and Stevie Wonder.  Granted “Musician of the Year 2014” at the Ghana Vodafone Music Awards, and featured on CNN’s  African Voices in 2016, Dey’s uniqueness was secured and followed.

His soft spoken, polite style of chatting set the tone to understand his impressions of South African jazz as he had faithfully listened to different musicians, like Bheki Mseleku and Andile Yenana whom he also met at the Festival.  Recognizing the strong jazz culture in South Africa with jazz roots and a special vibe, he continues to learn what he might want to add to his own music.  “I’m looking at the stylistics, how South African jazz is crafted, it’s mysterious, spiritual, sometimes dark tones, and what it’s telling you – it’s difficult to describe.  Like Mseleku’s “All for One, One for All” song…..

I suggested he talk with Afrika Mkize who had transcribed Bheki’s compositions.

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Dey is working on his second album with his trio.  “I want something more intimate and intricate.”  Maybe some traditional West African beats?  We’ll see. As we  talked about the more traditional Ghanaian highlife of C K Mann, Dey’s voice saddened. “Oh, that is the old highlife. It’s changed now.  I don’t want to say into what!”  He chuckles confirming my worst suspicion.

“The Highlife is more electronic now, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  But there’s a totally different feel about it now ….. It’s more like pop with the Akan Twi lyrics, and moving into a more global context.”  He suggested that people are playing around this mode, but are moving away from their traditional roots, while understanding the traditional in other more modern contexts.

“This is interesting because I worked on a project earlier this year, and recorded it, taking older classical songs of Ghana and giving them a more modern jazz twist with a light jazz piano .  That is yet to be released  with a well known highlife lady singer, Kodjoe Aisah.  So,  that kind of highlife is not totally dead yet, thank God!”  But are there other musicians willing to keep the traditional alive, and yet move the music forward as improvisational music?   “There are a few guys who haven’t yet put their tunes out .  They’re in that development phase taking so many things in, but it will come.”

This is an issue, remembering  how stuck musicians like Ethiopia’s Mulatu Astatke were in trying to move Ethio-jazz forward, but the schools of music (and fellow musicians!) refused to do this.  So are there music schools for jazz in Ghana?

 

“No, not yet.  Schools prefer the [European] classical and choral music, and African traditional music.  Once in a while, workshops are organized.  I just did a tour in Ghanaian universities, sponsored by the American Embassy, but that’s about it.  Yes, I’m disappointed, but not surprised.   Jazz culture in Ghana was nicer in the 60s and 70s.  But what happened is that the soldiers took over the country in coups and forced curfews on citizens who couldn’t go out to hear the live music at night.  So the musicians left the country.  This is why I’m on a mission to enlighten:  organize workshops, give private lessons for payment or free.  I’m working on something now at University of Ghana which wants to catalogue my music and start a program  –  that’s in the pipeline.”

Hmmm.  The creative artist struggles with time management devoted to creating, but then the other teaching/learning cycle with society takes up space, too.  “I’ll make the time,” Dey says convincingly. “I’ve done some things with neighboring countries like Togo and Benin. My band may be performing at the Lagos International Jazz Festival in Nigeria, too, next year! But I have loved what I have seen and learned right here with South Africans at this Festival!” His eyes gleam.

Well, it’s reassuring to this writer that jazz, with some roots in tradition, won’t die.  I’m watching Dey Jr. like a hawk!

Catch his Youtube video at:  https://musicians.allaboutjazz.com/victordeyjnr

 

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Dan Shout – In With a Shout Secret Weapons released by Pathway Records (UK) (2018)

Dan Shout blowing up a storm

By Eric Alan

For me its always an exciting occasion to be contacted by a South African Jazz, Blues, Latin or World Jazz musician from all of the subcategories of our genre mix and told of their forthcoming brand new album release. Rarely does that happen, usually I’m always keeping an eye out to see and find out who’s doing what and when. The social media has been a great help discovering those new albums and those that are often debutants.

Dan Shout is someone who doesn’t let the grass grow under him and makes contact when things are about to happen. As a musician he is one of those rare species who takes his career very seriously. He is an astute business minded musician who conducts himself in a highly professional manner. He has created an environment, which is conducive to success in the music industry; no make that the jazz music business of today, something of which I admire totally.

Secret Weapons is Dan’s fourth album and second under the moniker In With A Shout which is described on his website as a contemporary, African jazz-fusion project led by saxophonist Dan Shout, I must add that he is also a bandleader, composer, arranger and teacher.

The first track grab hold of me from the opening bars, after things just kinda flowed from there. I was caught up in the musical magic coming form the speakers. The recording itself is quite outstanding, well done to the recording engineers. The album cover is a gem too, it reflects the albums title in a kind of steampunk fashion, whoever the designer was, cudo’s.

As with his earlier albums each relflects his journey as a jazz musician in Africa with each CD (Book) release. The story told though Secret Weapons continues the earlier albums narrative with each track telling the listener of his passage to the here and now. I look forward to grander accomplishments with the subsequent CDs. He found his own unique voice in the cutthroat and fickle world of jazz in Africa a long time ago and continues to grow with each album release. Don’t wait another 4 years to release the next one Dan. This is an album that is a must have for any self respecting jazz afficianado and will stand the test of repeated listening.

Secret Weapons will be available for purchase from Friday 3 August 2018 at https://danshout.bandcamp.com  and other social media or go to Dan’s website at http://www.danshout.co.za/in-with-a-shout

Track Listing:

  1. Bennie’s Farm (Soloists: Dan Shout, Justin Bellairs, Michael Bester, Kevin Gibson)
  2. Jou Lekker Ding (Soloists: Marc de Kock, Michael Bester, Kevin Gibson)
  3. Challenge Accepted (Soloists: Andrew Ford, Justin Bellairs, Benjamin Jephta)
  4. Beer Jersey Boogaloo (Soloists: Dan Shout, Michael Bester)
  5. Betrayal (Soloists: Benjamin Jeptha, Justin Bellairs)
  6. Lough Easky (Soloists: Gordon Vernick)
  7. Ready & Waiting (Soloists: Dan Shout)

Personnel:

Dan Shout – Tenor Saxophone, Clarinet (Composer/Arranger)

Marc de Kock – Tenor Saxophone, Flute

Justin Bellairs – Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone

Michael Bester – Electric Guitar

Andrew Ford – Piano

Benjamin Jeptha – Electric Bass

Kevin Gibson – Drum Kit

Gavin Minter – Percussion (Tracks 2, 4, 6)

Gordon Vernick – Trumpet (Track 6)

Ndumiso Manana – Vocals (Track 7)

Recorded, mixed and mastered by Andrew Ford at the Nuthouse Studios, Newlands, Cape Town, April/May 2018.

Discography

In With a Shout – SMC003 (2014)
Serenading Ghosts – SHOUT, SMC002 (2012)
Greetings & Salutations – Dan Shout, SMC001 (2010)


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Dongfeng Liu Releases China Caribe on the Zoho Music label

Sjoe! is all I could say when this album arrived a few weeks ago and as I was adding it to our playlist I thought who in the world is Dongfeng Liu a totally new name to me and kinda gave little thought to it, it was on our playlist and continued add all the other new release’s to the playlist. You see it is not that often that I get the chance to listen to a full album in one sitting other than when I choose to write an album review.

Like all of our presenters here at All Jazz Radio most of my listening happens when I program all of the shows that I compile on a daily basis. Who said running a small independent online Jazz, Blues, Latin and World Jazz radio station from little ol’ Cape Town was easy. As the sole fulltime volunteer with absolutely no resources whatsoever, I can tell you it ain’t, nuff of those sentiments.

Usually I look for the new and unusual stuff to listen to, however, this one was finally noticed when I played the track Arcadia during my show. It’s not that often that something say’s jinne and captures me totally as this track did. Sadly it’s taken me a few weeks to “discover” the full album and to actually set time aside to sit down and really listen China Caribe.

At first I did not know how or where to categorise what I was hearing out of the speakers, but what I heard was an intriguing fusion from China, Cuban and Mongolian roots and instrumentation. I was immediately hooked from the opening refrains of the first track In The Clouds and knew that I had found something very special in China Caribe. I knew too that I was going to be listening to and introduce to friends, family and our fans for a long time. Each track offers an enjoyable listening experience with the journey being extremely enticing. The amalgamation of ChiMongCu and is a synthesis that just works so well. I love it and I think many will too.

L to R: Roberto Quintero, Dongfeng Liu, John Benitez, Francis Benitez. Photo: Melanie Futorian.

It’s a little early however; I look forward to what Dongfeng Lui will surprise us with next. Sjoe! I’ve got to have a friendly word with the powers that be from the Cape Town International Jazz Festival to include him and this band on the Rosies Stage at the 2019 Festival

Track Listing:

  1. In The Clouds
  2. Mirror Image
  3. Colorful Clouds Chasing the Moon
  4. I Know You
  5. Arcadia
  6. Coltrane’s Tune
  7. Fisherman’s Song at Dusk
  8. Moophy.

Personnel: Dongfeng Liu Piano; John Benitez Electric bass, Acoustic bass; Roberto Quintero Percussion # 1 – 5, 7; Francis Benitez Drums; Min Xiaofen Ruan # 1, Pipa # 3, 5; Feifei Yang Erhu # 7.

Special Guests:Hanggai Band Mongolian horsehead fiddle, Mongolian throat singing # 1.

Release Date: June 8, 2017.

Produced byJohn Benitez, Kabir Sehgal and Doug Davis.

Recorded on October 24, 2017 at Teaneck Sound, Teaneck, NJ. Recorded, Mixed & Mastered by Brian Chirlo.

Art direction and Package Design by Jack Frisch. Photography: Melanie Futorian. Liner notes: Kabir Sehgal. Executive producer: Joachim “Jochen” Becker.

Read more about Dongfeng Liu – China Caribe at https://www.zohomusic.com/cds_detail.php?cds_id=187

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Moskus – Mirakler – Hubro Records

Rob Mallows

By Rob Mallows – London Jazz News

They’re from Norway,” the editor said. Well, that’s a good start, I thought, when I was asked to review this album by a band I’d never heard of before. Over the last decade, Norway has for this reviewer been something of an El Dorado of great new jazz music, with fine artists such as Eyolf Dale, Pixel and Daniel Herskedal producing great album after great album. It’s become one of my go-to jazz nations.

But I was taking a leap in the dark with Moskus

Read the full review … at http://www.londonjazznews.com/2018/07/cd-review-moskus-mirakler.html

 

 

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Diva Jazz Orchestra 25th Anniversary Project (2018)

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When I sit down to write a review, it is without thought like a blank piece of paper, the words then kinda just flow from my mind to my fingers, so much so that I’m in a sort of focused trance, no don’t be silly I’m not on medical marijuana nor am I smoking my socks as some may assume but I feel so lekker (nice) when I hear a truly great jazz big band/orchestra.

I let the music infuse my being with a solid wave of euphoria along with a really delectable Glass (note the big G) and a half of liquid mellowness, better known as Pinotage, that alluring russet coloured liquid nectar of the gods hastens my collective thoughts to the task at hand, which, is writing or should I rather say typing away on the keyboard.

The Diva Jazz Orchestra


This is the first time I’ve received a Diva Jazz Orchestra album, sent to me by Kari Gaffney of Kari-On Productions with whom I’ve had a long working relationship over many years, in fact over more than 24 years of my radio career, sjoe, now I really feel like a member The August Society of Crusty Old People, neh! Kari has always sent us the most amazing new music by some of the finest innovative young jazz talent her company promotes to jazz radio in the USA and the rest of the global village. Another fact is that some years ago I invited her to do a show for us and I’m very grateful that she agreed, and along with her husband Jeff Williams who produces and also presents together with her. Jeff has been producing the show for some while now, and better yet they also supply the show to a number of stations in the US and Canada. Thanks for all the extra hard work you do Kari and Jeff also thanks for the wonderful music and artists Kari. AJR has become known for playing more new jazz musicians few have ever heard before. Jeez, been prattling on haven’t we?, and now onwards and upwards to infinity and beyond. Damn, why did that pop into my head and where does that line come from?

The Late Stanley Kay

The Diva Jazz Orchestra is led from behind the drum kit by Music Director/Drummer Sherrie Maricle and has been since the orchestra’s inception. The album sees a bunch of fresh new music written for this very special album by members of the orchestra as a tribute to the person who started it all those years ago The Late Stanley Kay, who also happened to manage a fellow drummer’s band and used to sit in for maestro, Buddy Rich from time to time.

Stanley Kay was conducting a band which the now music director and drummer for the D.J.O, was playing, so impressed with her talent, he ruminated that there could be other woman who played to the same standard as Sherrie. His views turned to certitude when auditions were held throughout the USA, then in June of 1992 the orchestra became a reality and, that they say dear jazz lovers is history.

I’ve been listening the album throughout the week prior to my next deadline for the publication, and often  listen three to four times a day soaking in the incredible assemblage of jazz talent in the orchestra on this recording. Then I started thinking, damn (*&%$£ expletive expunged), why had I not heard of, yep, now you know, or gotten any of the Diva Jazz Orchestra’s music before. That’s gonna change soon.

The album offers a plush uninhibited big band sound with the new and a whole bunch of future standards especially for big bands. Each tune is a marvellous treat to the ears and soul. I love every minute I listen to the album and recommend that you go get yourself a copy of it wherever you can.

I think I must whisper a word or two into the ears of the Groot (big) Makulu boss of the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, Billy Domingo. What do you think?

Track Titles – Composer – Time

  1. East Coast Andy – Leigh Pilzer – 6:04
  2. Middleground – Janelle Reichman – 6:40
  3. See Saw – Noriko Ueda – 6:59
  4. Jami’s Tune – Barbara Laronga – 6:37
  5. Square One – Alexa Tarantino – 6:19
  6. Darkness of the Matter – Sara Jacovino – 7:40
  7. La Americana – Tomoko Ohno – 5:31
  8. A Quarter Past the Last Minute – Jennifer Krupa – 5:47
  9. Forever in My Heart – – 7:12
  10. The Rhythm Changes – Sherrie Maricle – 5:37

The Diva Jazz Orchestra

Sherrie Maricle – Music Director/drummer

Noriko Ueda – bass

Tomoko Ohno – piano

Leslie Havens – bass trombone

Sara Jacovino – trombone

Jennifer Krupa – trombone

Rachel Therrien – trumpet, flugelhorn

Barbara Laronga – trumpet, flugelhorn

Jami Dauber – trumpet, flugelhorn, manager

Liesl Whitaker – trumpet, flugelhorn

Leigh Pilzer – baritone saxophone, bass clarinet

Erica von Kleist – tenor saxophone

Janelle Reichman – tenor saxophone, clarinet

Mercedes Beckman – alto saxophone, flute, clarinet

Alexa Tarantino – alto saxophone, soprano saxophone

Its  great that we in South Africa have our own brand new big band made upon some highly talented woman who are true masters of their own instruments playing incredible music. I was introduced to them at the recent SAJE Conference held in Cape Town at UCT, needless to say was reservedly blown away by their performance as they at the time, were only together for a couple of weeks.

My greatest hope is that when they record their debut album they will only include original music written and arranged by the very talented members of the band, however should they, gods forbid decide to any record of those ubiquitous covers they learned a collage, forget it rather look the great South African composers works to cover instead.

I know I’m going to be in trouble about what I’m going to say because there is a bit of a caveat about the bands moniker which is The Lady Day Big Band, whilst I am an uninhibited fan of Billie Holiday for me personally its not the right brand, I mean after all we are African and Capetonian to boot, nuff said on the subject for now, neh! I will take it up with the leaders of the project when I have them in the studio soon on my show.

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Tutu Puoane – The Joni Mitchell Project Live (2017)

 Soul Factory Records – Distributor Sonic Rendezvous

I’ve been wanting to review this album for a while now but never got around to doing it, so sorry Tutu however it being Friday 13th July nice cuppa at hand so no more excuses as we enter another dark cold wet winters night. I sit in the dark lounge, the only illumination from the computer screen, utterly engrossed as I listen to the album, over and over, ok 3 times back to back, i simply was lost in the sounds i was hearing and blerry well forget to switch on the lights. No worries ’cause the Klutz in the Kitchen made a lekkerlicious (really tasty and nice) Bobotie (Baked Curried Mince with egg custard on top) Sarmi (sandwich) with a great cuppa char to wash it down. Run out of char so it had to darned instant cawfee, gonna have to do a victual run on the morrow, without any further thought I just continue to let my fingers glide across the keyboard and type the words streaming like tickertape from my psyche.

So moved am I as I keenly listen, totally engrossed to the sounds hailing from my speakers. I thought, jinna Eric why have you not listened to this full live recording masterpiece in all of its glory before. How dumb assed have I been? Don’t answer that. Ok then you don’t have to say it out loud, neh!.

Sjoe! I’ve been playing individual tracks from the album when programming my shows for ages now since its release in August of 2017, how much of an ass have I really been? Don’t answer that either, I got a good lawyer.

Tutu and Ewout

I must add this is one hell of an album with an incredible cast of musicians backing the beautiful voice that Tutu has been blessed with; each track is a bona fide paragon. The album offers an enthralling listening experience; seldom do I offer any praise for live recordings, however this is one of those very few that I do. It took me right into the concert hall, I truly felt part of the audience. With superlative vocals and out of this world arrangements as well as some truly impressive playing by each member of the excellent backing band led so ably from behind the piano by Ewout Pierreux Tutu’s hubby. This is an album worthy of pride of place in all serious jazz lovers collection. Better praise I cannot give for a live recording, well done to all concerned. I highly recommend The Joni Mitchell Project Live if you don’t have it as yet go get quickly.

The entire band is;

Tutu Puoane – voice, Tineke Postma – sax, Ewout Pierreux – piano, Clemens van der Feen – bass, Jasper Van Hulten – drums.

Tracklisting:

1 River

2 The Hissing of Summer Lawns

3 Goodbye Pork Pie Hat

4 God Must Be a Boogieman

5 Both Sides Now

6 Black Crow

7 Hejira

8 I Don’t Know Where I Stand

9 My Old Man

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MR Project – Journey (2018)

Mike Rossi’s MRP Album Cover Journey

I’ve known Mike Rossi for quite a number of years now and have played and reviewed his albums over those years. When I received this album and gave a quick run through scan of the all of tracks I knew there was something special about what I was hearing. I decided to can what I had planned and set about without delay, to listen carefully to the entire album with all attention. I listened to the over the next four or so hours and the called Mike to come over for an interview during my show. We arranged a time and the day; I the intervening period I listened to the album back to a number of more times and again was not disappointed. We did the interview and had a great time in the studio chatting.

This is one of the best albums releases this year to my way of thinking, and is intensely personal for Mike, with each track holding a very special place in Mr Rossi’s heart. I believe it reflects a very personal voyage that has brought him this point in his chosen profession. It is like everything has come together, you know, right time and right place with the apposite people to create an enormously beautiful work that will stand the test of time, which is somewhat special and a must have for real jazz lovers.

Track and player listing;

  1. Got a Match?(For Chick Corea) with Marco Maritz, William Haubrich, Andrew Ford, Wesley Rustin and Kevin Gibson. Mike Rossi, tenor sax.
  2. Big Sax(for Rampone & Cazzani) w/ Marco Maritz, William Haubrich, Andrew Ford, Wesley Rustin and Kevin Gibson. M. Rossi, altello sax.
  3. Ciao Roma, Don’t say Lazio!(For Susanna Stivali) w/ Andrew Ford, Wesley Rustin and Kevin Gibson. M. Rossi alto flute & tenor sax.
  4. Star Dust(For Mom; Janet Christina Sansonetti Rossi); with Andrew Ford. M. Rossi, alto sax.
  5. KwaZulu Zam Sam(For Kwazulu-Natal) w/ Marco Maritz, William Haubrich, Andrew Ford, Wesley Rustin and Kevin Gibson. M. Rossi alto sax.
  6. Alpe Camasca, Italy(For Maria Rita Zolla) w/ Marco Maritz, William Haubrich, Andrew Ford, Wesley Rustin and Kevin Gibson. M. Rossi, clarinet, tenor & soprano sax.
  7. Greasy Pan Blues(For those unexpected “food” moments) w/ Marco Maritz, William Haubrich, Andrew Ford, Wesley Rustin and Kevin Gibson. M. Rossi sax.
  8. Land of Make Believe(For Chuck Mangione) w/ Andrew Ford, Wesley Rustin and Kevin Gibson. M. Rossi, flute, alto flute, piccolo.
  9. Shiny Stockings(For Count Basie) w/ Andrew Ford, Wesley Rustin and Kevin Gibson. M. Rossi clarinet.
  • Cucciulitti-Snails of Fermo(fFor Umberto & Maria Bufalini) w/ William Haubrich, Andrew Ford, Wesley Rustin and Kevin Gibson. M. Rossi baritone sax.
  • Hilda(For friends in Norway & “Hildas” everywhere); w/ Andrew Ford. M. Rossi soprano sax.
  • Mra (For South Africa & Diane Rossi) w/ Marco Maritz, William Haubrich, Andrew Ford, Wesley Rustin and Kevin Gibson. M. Rossi tenor sax.

    Mike Rossi

Each track is a bona fide gem and tells the story in a way which even I can understand. As can be seen the musicians featured through this journey have worked with Mike for years and they show the respect they have for him through their playing. Thank you for sharing those personal moments from your life and passion with me as a listener and jazz lover it is truly appreciated. This album is going to take a lot to beat, and BTW I love the album cover, but Mike I don’t envy you the next time you head into the studio.

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Brian Charette Groovin’ With Big G – by Dan Bilawsky of All About Jazz Website

Groovin’ With Big G was destined to come about. When a young Brian Charette was cutting his teeth on jazz piano gigs in his home state of Connecticut in the early ’90s, he wound up working dates with drummer George Coleman Jr. The two struck up a friendship, and Coleman’s encouragement helped Charette make the leap to New York a few years later. Coleman even let the budding pianist crash in his rehearsal studio for a spell.

https://www.allaboutjazz.com/groovin-with-big-g-brian-charette-steeplechase-records-review-by-dan-bilawsky.php?width=1280

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The D.A.J.O (Darryl Andrews Jazz Orchestra) album Cape Town (2017)

D.A.J.O (Darryl Andrews Jazz Orchestra) Cape Town (2017) Album Cover

CD Review – By Eric Alan – The D.A.J.O (Darryl Andrews Jazz Orchestra) album Cape Town (2017)

I’ve really been fortunate throughout my broadcast career to meet and interact with so many great musicians from the entire global village, especially those from my own hometown and one such is Guitarist, Teacher, Conductor, Bandleader, Composer and Arranger Darryl Andrews. He is

closing in on retirement from the renowned South African College of Music, UCT’s Jazz Studies Program.

It is very pleasing to be able to write this review of his album, Cape Town by the D.A. Jazz Orchestra, whichhas finally been released. The most exciting aspect of this album is apart from a few of his own compositions it features the music of other equally well known Cape Town composers which include The Late Winston Mankunku Ngozi, The Late Errol Dyers, Professor Mike Campbell, Alvin Dyers and naturally Darryl Andrews too.

Bandleader Guitarist, Composer, Conductor, Producer and Teacher Darryl Andrews

The band includes some of his students and friends and in the woodwind section are alto-saxophone and clarinet players Justin Bellairs and Evan Froud, the tenor saxes are played by Zeke Le Grange and Sisonke Xonti, with baritone saxophonist Georgia Jones, The horn section comprises of: on trumpet and flugelhorn Lorenzo Blignaut and Marcelle Adams with Robin Fassie-Kok, and the trombonists includes Justin Sasman, Ryan van der Rheede, Kelly Bell and Ryan Kierman. The rhythm section includes pianist Andrew Ford with acoustic and electric bassist Stephen De Souza and drummer Lumanyno Unity Mzi.

The really heavy-duty work of conducting, composing, transcribing and arranging falling Darryl’s broad shoulders, whilst guest players include Prof Mike Campbell, and both of the Dyers brothers, as do vibraphonist Bronwen Clacherty and flautist Bridget Rene. Darryl is quoted as saying, “Jazz is always changing, and it evolves as we speak. We identified with it, being from oppressed people. Look what jazz was born out of, one of the greatest human atrocities – slavery.” This can be heard in countless composers works since the birth of jazz.

The album as a whole offers a new perspective to what an African Big Band when arranging and transcribing of the original works by Winston Mankunku Ngozi, Errol Dyers, Mike Campbell and Alvin Dyers. Giving a fresh new look at the iconic pieces chosen for the album. Darryl’s own compositions can certainly take pride of place alongside these classics many of which I’ve not heard before and again gives great pleasure to hear and know that his work will finally be heard by jazz lovers, specifically big band aficionados. More power to composing and recording more original material Mr Andrews don’t let us wait for your next offering too long, no matter the bands configuration.

I must add that I rate this album very highly. 4.8 Stars  out of 5 – This is an album that must be part of any self-respecting jazz lovers collection.

Track Listing

1 Khanya 6:20

2 Blue Natural 8:17

3 A Song For Bra Des Tutu 7:39

4 Hanepoot 4:21

5 Utopian Sunset 7:47

6 Sugar Shake 6:29

7 Imbodlomane 3:16

8 Wesley Street 4:06

9 Sermon 7:15

Please feel free to contact Darryl at either of the following; darryl.andrews@uct.ac.za or darryl.andrews@gmail.com  to get your own copy of this exciting album and when you email in your order be sure to ask him to autograph it for you.

The album is also available from iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/za/album/cape-town/1322945019 and a site I’m not too familiar and is a European based web site named Gobuz check it out at https://www.qobuz.com/ie-en/album/cape-town-darryl-andrews-jazz-orchestra/mjulev7phzkob

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Philipp Gropper’s Philm Live At Bimhuis by Eric Alan – 12 April 2018

Live At Bimhuis by Philipp Gropper’s Philm

Is jazz dead, I say emphatically no, but the late Frank Zappa said “Jazz isn’t dead. It just smells funny.” To go further “Life is a lot like jazz… it’s best when you improvise.” once said by George Gershwin. Also “If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know.” as said by Louis Armstrong.
The world of jazz is really not as marginal as so many think and believe, yes jazz is also not as irrelevant in the world music as so many major record labels like to say, jazz does not sell. No, jazz is not a trivial voice in the wilderness of today’s music industry; it is a force to be reckoned with. Now here is a question, why are so many jazz musician first call session musicians around the world? Here’s something else to ponder, why are there so many independent jazz record labels releasing so many new jazz albums world wide? I mean so far this year we’ve been sent 484 new and re-issue Jazz, Blues, Latin and World jazz albums of all genres from all quarters of the world. Sjoe can you believe it so may released this year already. Any volunteers want to write some CD reviews? Since I’ve been in the broadcast business I’ve always said jazz sells. More than those “clever” executive flunkies at record labels think.

Wait a mo, you ask yourself where is the review, read on dear friends, it’s coming I promise. J

Jennifer Back contacted me from a German label I’d never heard of and she told me of the recording I’m now listening to titled Live At Bimhuis by Philipp Gropper’s Philm (WPJ041).

The German record label is WhyPlayJazz, naturally my inquisitive nature got the best of me so I had a quick look at their website and boy was I glad I did, suffice to say we will be featuring more from this very interesting lable in our program and on our playlists going forward.

Here is a bit about them I’ve taken from their website; WhyPlayJazz – the independent record label for contemporary jazz with a special focus on the Berlin scene. The record label from Greifswald with a passion for fine sound was called into existence in 2005. Roland Schulz founded his own record label out of fascination for this idiosyncratic music. There was so much to discover! WhyPlayJazz is looking at years of cooperation with musicians like Philipp Gropper, Uli Kempendorff, Benjamin Weidekamp and Wanja Slavin and is enriching the European jazz scene with its 40th release in 2018.

Philipp Gropper’s Philm Philipp Gropper – Robert Landfermann – Oliver Steidle – Elias Stemeseder photo by Frank Schemmann

Now the reason for all the above, though the album has been added to our playlist and I’ve feature tracks in the programming, it’s the first time I’m listening to the album in it’s entirety since receiving the album three weeks ago.

On first impression there is a lot of freedom and huge responsibility given by bandleader Philipp Gropper to his band mates. It has been a very pleasant surprise to listen to as each track takes one into a world of exciting improvisational mastery. It challenges, enthrals and showcases far wider musical influences offering a worldly perspective giving one pause for thought and reflection. It is an album that must be added to ones collection. I can recommend this album highly and look forward to hearing more and sharing music by Philipp Gropper’s Philm and the many other artists on the WhyPlayJazz record label.

The line-up is made up of Philipp Gropper (tenor sax, composition), Elias Stemeseder (piano, synthesizer), Robert Landfermann (bass), Oliver Steidle (drums)

It was recorded July 30th, 2017 by Marc Schots at the famous BIMHUIS, in Amsterdam (Netherlands and was mixed and mastered by Martin Ruch at Control Room Berlin (Germany). Design and artwork by Travassos.

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SAMA 2017 winner Nduduzo Makhathini’s ‘Inner Dimensions’ (2017): Reflections & Prayer

Nduduzo Makhathini receiving SAMA 2017 for Best Jazz Album

Nduduzo Makhathini receiving SAMA 2017 for Best Jazz Album

SAMA 2017 rewards another son of the African soil with Best Jazz Album (‘Inner Dimensions”), but this isn’t about ‘jazz’ only. Pianist Nduduzo Makhathini’s 7th album to date continues to haunt us with the inner workings of what our soul journey to higher, spiritual dimensions should look like. He seems to know, in a deeply ancestral and real life, way. [See my interview with him below.]

Album cover of "Inner Dimensions"

Album cover of “Inner Dimensions”

This 11-track album, recorded in Switzerland in May 2016 with Swiss colleagues (the Umgidi Trio) Fabien Iannone on double bass and drummer Dominic Egli, along with a 7-person choir (the One Voice Vocal Ensemble), exudes innovative techniques meant “to go deep within the inner realms of our souls and find those melodies that bring about harmony, healing and hope for all people,” according to one of Makhathini’s YouTube interviews. By reaching the inner, we can than reach the outer universe everywhere else.

To do all this, Makhathini and his cohorts have developed artistic styles to accompany his sometimes contemplative, zesty, and freely unconfined runs on the piano. The range of styles include early South African jazz motifs, contemporary gospel and jazz choral, funky liturgical, accopella harmonies, indigenous African chants to Spirit, and freeflow improvisation.

What is different from his previous albums is the inventive use of vocals and choral orchestration alongside acoustic improvisation of his trio. These styles have successfully pushed ‘jazz’ to another level, what Makhathini calls God’s hand touching every soul that encounters this music. Appreciation of Spirit is tantamount, as in ‘At Your Feet Oh Lord’, a prayerful beckoning for blessings, which starts the album, and ‘Mama Africa”, pronouncing deference to Mother Africa’s ancestors. In “Sobantu”, referencing live jazz oozing from a vibey township near his Pietermaritzberg home as he was growing up, Makhathini displays his vast understanding of chord structures and changes as the same tune is repeated but in different 5ths and 7ths. As he deconstructs chords into singular runs that regroup back into chords, this song becomes reminiscent of early South African jazz styles of the Sophiatown era. Here, like legendary pianist Tete Mbambisa on his ‘Black Heroes’ album, Makhathini wants to guard and retain these sounds proudly produced by earlier maestros of township jazz during the apartheid era. Choral and gospel arrangements are diligently presented in “Lift Those Voices”, and in “Alphinah” where choral harmonies morf into a solemn, moving liturgical presentation backed by the trio’s playful jazz style in ¾ time, almost as a sing-along jaunt with a gospel twist. The album ends with three very differently styled Movements: I – about Compassion with English lyrics sung by the chorus which flows directly into Movement II that features the melodic mbira, traditional chants, and KhoiSan sounds emanating from this inventive concoction of voices and percussion.

Drummer Dominic Egli

Drummer Dominic Egli

Surprisingly, this second piece was composed by drummer Egli, a European who has captured superbly the dynamics of traditional South African sounds of the soil. The third Movement called ‘Freedom Chants’ breaks from traditional beats into a ‘free jazz’ vocal and trio mix. One is moved into another ethereal realm, maybe the final ‘nirvana’ in attaining spiritual awakening.
Thus, the most inner of all dimensions of our human existence is touched and elevated.

My clear assessment is that Makhathini’s ancestors are not angry; rather, they keep pushing their son’s consciousness one step further, something we can look forward with his subsequent recordings.

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I chatted with Makhathini about his album and his reflections on winning the SAMA award:

CM: Does your SAMA award put pressure on you now to do other things in promoting music, etc?
NM: It’s great that one can be recognized in that kind of way; but some of these awards mostly belong to the record label, and not necessarily to the artist. So I went to the SAMAs more as a record label owner as I own my own private label, Gundu Entertainment, co-owned with my wife.

CM: When you become an award winner, you may be asked to do various things, like lead a band, or give workshops and master classes, etc. How do you feel about that? Wouldn’t these activities detract from what you want to do creatively, like write and perform your music?

06 NMakhathini

NM: That whole development thing has always been with me. Even now, in my teaching at Tshwane University, I’ve been putting an emphasis on mentorship beyond the classroom, and how lecturers can inspire students further who feel they don’t have opportunities. For instance, I always thought I came from an insignificant city of Pietermaritzburg and wanted people who could mentor me. So if I can contribute to mentoring others in any way, I’m willing to stretch beyond playing the music . I recently did a TED talk, and am presenting papers at different universities on different subjects in order to expand beyond the piano. But it gives me more inspiration when I play my music – when I have more to say through my compositions, or just as an improviser. Then there’s a lot more I can project in the music as opposed to just playing the instrument. It’s great when we all can contribute to this communal consciousness and create something beautiful out of it!

CM: You’re producing many albums now. How is this?
NM: You know, it’s because I see in this country a great need for healing, and I talk about it. People think talk about healing is boring, so I try to push it to a less superficial level. This idea of democracy was initially a pre-mature wish here, even with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and other events that centred around these notions of freedom. But I think of this freedom and truth at three different levels:

One, the physical level of physical brutality when people were beaten up and shot. Then there is the brutality of the mind which conditions you how you think about yourself, where you think less of yourself, feel you don’t belong, or don’t have a voice or say in anything. Then there is this third level, and more dangerous one, what bra Zim Ngqawana called the ‘vandalism of the soul’. If you’ve been brutalized by the first two, then it’s necessary that the soul be in a safe place to help correct or survive from these brutalities.

So in the work that I do, we think of our ancestors as souls, and they are often angry at having died not being fulfilled on earth, or not loving themselves. ‘Inner Dimensions’ was trying to tap into who we are. Even in pre-colonial times, did we have a name as Africans? What was our story? Now, our identity is trying not only to capitalise on the idea of ‘blackness’, but also on the idea that if you contribute to yourself, then you contribute better to the pages of consciousness, and towards this new idea of a humanity with a collective consciousness. But sometimes we forget that the building blocks for a healthy society are focusing on the inner way enabling us to make contributions to ourselves, our families, and communities and expand to become the universal message. So look at these small building blocks of consciousness in order to think in more universal contexts.

CM: Do you think this album is your best so far? And which album is your favourite at this point?
NM: I don’t have a favourite album. Each album has a special narrative; they become like different chapters with messages which are connected. No album is ‘better’ than another. ‘Inner Dimensions’ is one of the few albums where I use vocals and choir orchestration. It was also recorded in Basel in Europe which meant I had to connect with my ancestry in a different way. We believe in the African soil, so from a foreign land, trying to make those spiritual connections in a deep way meant I had to do a lot of meditation to make sure I was connecting to what I believe in.

At Native Yards in Gugulethu/Capetown April 2017

At Native Yards in Gugulethu/Capetown April 2017

From the album liner notes, Makhathini’s prayer calls to God: “…may your beauty be found in every space in-between the notes….” and “….may your invisible hand touch your people as they experience each theme on this record.”

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Zoe Modiga’s “Yellow the Novel”, a story about self-awakening: a CD Review

'Yellow the Novel' album cover

          ‘Yellow the Novel’ album cover

Twenty-three year old songstress, Zoe Modiga who hails from KZN, South Africa, has launched her debut album containing an ambitious and seriously orchestrated series of her compositions which highlight her sense of self-awareness and being-true-to-oneself. We are ever-changing, as portrayed in nature’s Four Seasons, about which her band members eagerly chat on brief tracks, sparing about their favourite colours.

Often on South African stages with various other jazz bands and notable artists,  Modiga has absorbed multiple influences that have now enabled her to branch out with her own band, which include these notables, most recently heard on the Capetown International Jazz Festival stage in March 2017. It is therefore no surprise, yet still remarkable that she has chosen to market her talents in this introductory album with two disks containing 23 tracks, all but a few being her own compositions. There’s much to talk about in her ‘Yellow’ album, yellow being her favourite colour, which connotes peace and love for her. One clearly hears these messages as band members participate in various playful banter which confirms more their comradery and joy in this music project, rather than any meaningful messaging. It’s not clear, however, why her two discs have these verbal breaks which, for me, broke the flow of the increasingly engaging musical mood and temperaments which the songs offered.

Ms. Modiga hails from Kwa Zulu Natal, and completed her Jazz studies at Capetown’s South African School of Music. Other successes found her 8th in The Voice SA competitions, a winner of the 2015 SAMRO Overseas Scholarship Competition for singing (Jazz); and a vocal score in the Oscar nominated movie, Noem My Skollie, scored by her highly talented pianist, Kyle Shepherd. Other band members, like bassist Benjamin Jephta (Standard Bank’s 2017 Young Artist in Jazz) and pianist Bokani Dyer (Standard Bank 2011 Young Artist Award for Jazz, and recipient of the Samro Overseas Scholarship prize in 2013) feature in ‘Yellow’.

 With guitarest Keenan Ahrends

With guitarest Keenan Ahrends

‘Yellow the Novel’ is just that – a musical story with careful lyrics full of information, set to jazzy and melodic tunes. The listener is beckoned to listen carefully. Modiga sets the pace in Disk 1 with a lovely short African ballad, ‘Balele’, and then swings into the upbeat poppish ‘Abounding Within’ about our hidden peace morphing into jubilation. Yes, calls for peace feature abundantly in her two discs, in spite of low points. The song resolves into a slow meditative mood with the horns’ repetitious long notes. One learns how her sextet, with thirteen alternating musicians, eagerly follows her mood and direction without overpowering.

 

The novel unfolds musically, like a dramatic story, with forceful lyrics that advocate confidence, persistence, and hope. Modiga uses voice-overs and loops effectively to mimic a chorus. This is why her Disk 1 is uplifting; musically, she touches on a variety of improvisational styles, allowing the band to explore their own reaches. They introduce Track 8’s ‘Autumn’, again, with a carefree cacophony of mostly incoherent chats about their favourite colours. One muses, hearing the various South African accents from these mainly Capetown-based musicians.

03 Zoe_Modiga

Modiga occasionally falls into a vocal scat which calls out to the spiritual, such as in the melodic “Healer”, not requiring heavy messaging of a social nature like in her other songs. The power of God’s love is again recognised, as in the haunting “Love (Yahaweh)”, when the world seems hopeless. This love translates into how Modiga loves different kinds of people in “Would They” (get along well?). Recorded voice overs are effective here as the song queries if, in fact, saints and sinners, who are just ordinary people, could ever get along well with each other. A song for thought, indeed. An inspiring guitar carries this tune well. She is not ‘Alone’ as she takes chances, like everyone else, echoing her vocals through loops and repetitions, sometimes sarcastically because the world is asleep. This message returns at the end of Disc 1 with ‘Shake the World’ and a plea to get into your lane and wake up! This appropriately ends a winter season as the listener awaits for Spring to arrive in Disk 2.

Modiga breaks from English lyrics to pay tribute to the vernacular, particularly, to the legendary Winston Mankunku in his song, “Yakhalinkomo”, in a lovely arrangement with the guitar effectively adding a ballad mood. Sensuality and emotion punctuate other vernacular songs, like the moving “Inganekwane” referring to fairy tales and myths we live with. “Nantsi Ntsepe” offers lots of vocal chorus characteristic of morabi with a beautiful sax solo.

04 Zoe

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Not all is rosy as a novel enters conflict zones. Disc 2 opens with a mournful philosophical bent about our worldly delusions and the life-is-not-rosy confusions we live with, hiding our inner tears, in “And so it goes”. Lyrics again dominate the musical novel , with Winter having seemingly carried stories of woes and depression, like in “One Litre Deep”, a folksy satire, maybe about what dark winters can do to spirit. Hope resurrects, however. Spring explodes yellow flowers, like in “Dandelion” which, as a relief, doesn’t echo opinionated words of caution, but rather soft scat vocalisations by the singer in a childlike, carefree manner. Modiga ambitiously tries a wide range in her vocals, sometimes wandering erratically ‘off key’, as if dazzled by the emotions evoked by this intricate song. One wonders, should dandelions be that complex? Answers come in the last track,“Yellow”, which now explains what self-realization means, after hard work, an awakening of confidence hummed nicely by trumpet and piano, bringing the ear back to the spiritual and calm. It is a breath taking piece!

Disc 2 lyrics are softer, less contentious than those in Disc 1, implying that out of struggle comes yellow, aka peace and love. Modiga strongly believes in perseverance, and lives it, building her talents through festivals, working with distinguished musicians in South Africa, and meticulously studying her art.

05 Zoe

Having blessed a prestigious CTIJFstage recently, and slated for the upcoming National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in June 2017, Modiga is well on her way to extending her yellow hopes and loves that can impact on the South Africa’s jazz music industry. It’s rewarding to see her perform live; her songs speak directly to the audience with slinky, individualistic projections of who Zoe is. And her yellow cape is truly stunning!

Musicians that feature in the two-disk album are: Benjamin Jephta; Bokani Dyer; Claude Cozens; Frank Paco; Keenan Ahrends; Kyle Shepherd; Ludwe Danxa; Marlon Witbooi; Revan October; Robin Fassie Kock; Romy Brauteseth; Ruby Crowie; and Tim Mosh.

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Resonance for Peace in ‘Tales of Life’ by Etuk Ubong: A CD review

Tales of Life seems taller than life. Nigerian jazz trumpeter Etuk Ubong’s thoughtful album of his compositions speaks to not only Nigerian ancestral spirits, but also to the beauty of peace which our world could promote better through our humanity. Ubong’s ambition is to bring truth to music, sonic storytelling being one way. Young Ubong does just this, and exceeds expectations as he ambitiously, even conservatively, continues to explore reflective soundscapes and rhythms, in this, his second album, released in February 2017.

Tales of Life Album Cover

Tales of Life Album Cover

The opening piece, “Battle for Peace”,  honours hope, love, and peace. The drums speak with eagerness and forward-thinking, even coercion as the three horns introduce the theme of this album. All seem to cry for peace. It’s an energetic beginning, honouring what’s good.

Etuk Ubong - media

  Etuk Ubong – media

Ubong plays a staccato trumpet with a breathiness reminiscent of the early Miles Davis whom he emulates. His revealing solo in “Drawing Room” gives testimony to the serious practice he has undergone faithfully over these years of performing and perfecting his instrument along with the moods and emotions that can go with it.  Likewise, he pairs nicely with the piano of Timothy Ogunbiyi with the off-beat drums of Benjamin James, as in “Genesis”, a piece that displays obvious talents of Ubong’s bassline.

His provocative sounds are clear, simple and thoughtful, improvising to be understood. In ‘Story’, he continues his telling, like a yoga massage.  The drum silhouettes with a steady undercurrent, and the piano ends this story the way it began, pronouncing that the healing has been done.

In ‘Suddenly’, midway through the album, Ubong continues to unfold his tales with the same haunting off-beat drum and announcing piano that enters/exits, then re-enters, changing tempos and moods. This arrangement allows for a special layout by drummer James that charms. But when Ogunbiyi’s piano takes over, things become meditative and wondering. There are sudden outbursts of hyped up tempo and emotions, like questioning the purpose of life, then a whimsical return to the basic theme. This is a beautiful reflective piece, and my favourite on the album, as well as the longest song.

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This questioning leads to the boppish ‘Tales of Life’, again with Ogunbiyi’s punctured piano treble runs. The long notes of Ubong’s horn are unwavering, bringing out the melancholic undertones which characterises this album. Some notes deliberately go off-kilter, synonymous with life’s sometimes erratic journey. As in life, one must learn to listen attentively.  “The Earth Meditation” brings the listener back to reflection with the soothing near-silence of Ubong’s fugelhorn.

Ending the album, and befitting a son whose mother passed away too early, ‘Uyai Mi Margaret’ is a beautifully orchestrated song honouring Ubong’s mother, Margaret, as well as all women of this world. It’s a soulful vocal chant that adds meaning to this wonderfully inspiring album.

‘Tales of Life’ displays obvious growth of Ubong’s talents as he journeys his music far and wide, between South Africa, Nigeria (where this album was produced), and soon-to-be other worlds. Stay tuned as this innovative jazz trumpeter brings his African influences to his intriguing improvisational styles.

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Jazz trumpeter, Feya Faku, knights drummer Jeff Siegel’s Quartet in kingly fashion in “King of Xhosa” CD. By Carol Martin

Feya Faku, trumpet; Jeff 'Siege' Siegel, drums

Feya Faku, trumpet; Jeff ‘Siege’ Siegel, drums

American drummer, Jeff Siegel, has discovered and gleefully responded to the beckoning African sounds from a musical ‘king’ of the Xhosa people in South Africa, trumpet and fugelhorn wizard, Feya Faku. For those who know him, Faku is known to carry himself certainly in a kingly, but humble, way with the various peers he has played with around the world. As special artist on Siegel’s latest album, “King of Xhosa”, he has indeed knighted Siegel’s Quartet with stunning applause and African sound dimensions that are very special. Both musicians have benefited as teachers of jazz in their respective countries which might explain how the multi-faceted songs landed in this album, with lots of sharing of compositions amongst band members: Erica Lindsay presents her sonorous tenor saxophone on most tracks; pianist Francesca Tanksley keeps the pace, sometimes with a heavy bottom clef or whimsical treble runs, as in her ‘Prayer’; and bassist Rich Syracuse, also a professor, holds the backline tightly, with percussionist Fred Berryhill filling in with samba and other African rhythms.

Xhosa-cover-web

This eclectic album, released this January 2017 by Artists Recording Collective label, starts and ends with Africanness, thanks to Faku’s praise vocals in the beginning ‘Totem’ and Berryhill’s percussion at the end song ‘Umngqungqo (Rhythm)’. In between, the album boasts a mosaic of impressions: open sonic spaces of the South African countryside with Faku’s fugelhorn brilliantly invoking spiritual calling and elephant roars, as in ‘Call to Spirits’; post-bebop tributes to struggling musicians, as in Tanksley’s ‘Life on the Rock’; unattended heros, like Faku’s teachers who gave so much towards cultural growth in others, as in the duo, ‘Courage’ and ‘Unsung’. The latter soulfully presents that familiar Faku touch strengthened by an eloquent Siegel drum solo.

But it’s the prayerful, spiritual nature of mood and message that grabs as Faku weaves his horn’s melodies through solemn chats with Lindsay’s saxophone, as in the thought-provoking ‘Prayer’, which is Siegel’s favourite song on the album.

Erica Lindsay. Courtesy: Francesca-11

Erica Lindsay. Courtesy: Francesca-11

Faku continues to develop his spiritual soundscape by wandering mournfully through “Ballad of the Innocent”, a beautifully crafted piece by Siegel written after the Brussels bombing. It speaks to a need for reflective quietude so that humanity can realize peace and hope for a better world. One hears the pain and struggle for this through Faku’s sensitive manoeuvres as he reverently enhances the mood through conversations with the tenor saxophone. His familiar signature tone is heard also in a ballad-soothing, ‘Inner Passion’, which both Faku and Siegel agree all musicians must have to drive their musicality.

Siegel’s drums set the pace in ‘Gotta Get To It’, an upbeat message after a lilting slow ballad. One hears Coltrane influences from saxophonist and educator Lindsay who penned this piece, which explains her love for bop. The sax and trumpet make carefree play, frolicking very nicely over the keys and rhythms. Once appropriately woken up from a musical slumber, the album intersects with fast beats dominated by Siegel’s skilled percussive direction, like in the salsa inspired “Erica’s Bag”.

Francesca Tanksley

Francesca Tanksley

Feya Faku not only boasts a distinctly clear and relatively uncomplicated sound with clean runs and tonation on his instruments, but also continually activates his intuitive ears which enable him to collaborate with so many other greats. He cannot be ‘compared’ with others; his uniqueness, both in musical mechanics, spirit, and technique can best be measured by the honesty of delivery he gives to so many of his albums. This album shines with Faku’s integrity. And it’s Afro-fusion has rubbed off on the Jeff Siegel Quartet in very special ways.

"King of Xhosa" Jeff Siegel Quartet with Feya Faku

“King of Xhosa” Jeff Siegel Quartet with Feya Faku

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“Take Another Five”(2016): The Mike Rossi Project takes Odd Rhythmic Improv Journeys. By Carol Martin

The great jazz legend, Dave Brubeck, and reconciliation leader, Nelson Mandela, both men passing on 5 December one year apart (2012 and 2013 respectively), are memorialized in this latest album orchestrated by Professor Mike Rossi of Jazz Studies in the South African College of Music, University of Capetown. For students and professionals alike, or even for the timid uninitiated, it is a study in ‘odd’ rhythms* built upon Rossi’s publications which feature works in 5/4, 7/4, and 9/4 ‘time’. Pleasing sonic innovations abound.

Album cover by Capetown artist, Beezy Bailey

Album cover by Capetown artist, Beezy Bailey

Melodies ooze as one journeys through samba-scapes to infectious New Orleans dixie to memories of youth in the family barbershop, continuing on to an Italian village that hand makes the Rampone & Cazzani saxophones which Rossi so diligently markets, then to everyday life in South Africa since Rossi’s arrival in 1989. Resting in South Africa, Rossi gives tribute to South African-born wife, Diane, in a song which references ‘uncommon’ bebop performed in his doctoral recitals after they married. A quirky trip with a Czech orchestra performing a Peter Farmer concertino rounds out this multi-rhythmic compilation of Rossi compositions plus others’. Excitement abounds in every piece.

With a stellar band lineup of four horn players, plus baseline, the album threads through impressive and mostly clean solo scale runs, some challenging part harmonies and chats between the horns, and the skilful piano backup of Andrew Ford whose Nut House Studios recorded the live segments of the album in April 2016.

Mike Rossi at The Crypt

Mike Rossi at The Crypt

Besides Rossi’s various Rampone saxophones, plus clarinet and flute, Willy Haubrich’s trombone excelled in both range and technique. Likewise, guest artist Darren English, a young Capetonian trumpet wizard, fresh from United States gig runs, leaves one spellbound with his endless confidence. National Youth Jazz Band trumpeter/flugelhornist, Marco Maritz, shows great promise as well. The solid drums of seasoned Kevin Gibson predictably complement well. The double bass of Charles Lazar remained quieter and more layback in what essentially is a horn-dominated album.

The first track, “Take Another Five”, elegantly follows on the Dave Brubeck ‘Take Five’ tradition of 5/4 time, and was motivated by a tour with son Darius Brubeck’s band after the deaths of both legends. Rossi’s world tours with the likes of Darius inspired other Rossi tunes, like “To and Fro” with some fast and fearless runs by all three horns in sometimes erratic unison. The 9/4 samba rhythm supported by Gibson’s faithful drumming is dizzying, and further executed by English’s unrelenting scale runs. The rare flute adds rhythmic harmonies, but not enough.

A Rossi favourite Billy Strayhorn piece, ”Lush Life”, features his tenor sax in a careful, slow sonic duo with Ford’s relatively steady piano. Then ‘Nicholas’, a tribute to Rossi’s godson and written in Rossi’s family barbershop offers lots of clean solos with Ford’s tinkling piano, a conversational trombone, and lovely horn arrangements, all remarkably orderly. Rossi solos on the altello saxophone which gives out pleasantly rich and full-bodied tones.

Enter a New Orleans flavour in “Seven from Heaven”, Rossi starts out on clarinet that teases and moves to tenor sax, followed by a funky bop that connotes a New Orleans funereal romp that morfs into a joyful Dixie swing commemorating the deceased. The party has begun! Another tribute to the hand made saxophone craftsmanship takes us to Quarna Sotto, Italy, in “Quarna On My Mind”.

Darren English

Darren English

It’s like listening to villagers chatting: English’s breathless trumpet solo is followed by Rossi’s tenor sax which is followed by Haubrich’s chatty trombone which is followed by….. The horns then regroup in this challenging piece, and produce a fluid and pleasing resolve. Having said that, all three horns must run together again in “Beauty and the Blues”, through tidy harmonies, distinct trumpet statements, and phrases spewing boppish appeal. One of the few double bass solos by Lazar, hardly audible, breaks up the excited horn wah wahs which still remain subtlety enticing in their three part harmonies. What sounds like a difficult piece turns into a sensitively crafted and well-rehearsed soundscape engaging to the ear.

Haubrick, Maritz, and Rossi at Native Yards, Gugulethu; Dec 2016

Haubrick, Maritz, and Rossi at Native Yards, Gugulethu; Dec 2016

The saxophone remains supreme. “Lament for N.S.M.” presents Rossi’s (New Saxophone Music) tribute to the peace and harmony (of the sax) that can refine our madly rushed lives. Likewise, “Saxophone (s) Plus One” breaks with tradition again: Rossi plays his four saxes creatively dubbed to the often percussive electronic backing of Ulrich Suesse with whom Rossi collaborated in their 2008 album. Here, sax versatility hums with verve and pizazz – if one likes the atonality of electronic wisps.

“Lady Di”, dedicated to wife of 26 years, is a study in chromatic language set into various recitals, publications, and teachings on meter shifts over time, starting with Rossi’s doctoral incarceration from the mid-1990s at Boston’s Conservatory of Music. Trade offs are bartered individually as each instrument spars for recognition, particularly Rossi’s tenor. Then the song becomes melodic as horns frolic amongst themselves. A delightful tempered piece.

The album ends on a different note: a previous recording of Rossi performing, with the Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra, a piece by Peter Farmer entitled, “Concertino for Tenor Saxophone and Orchestra”. As a symphonic guide to the sax, this piece which comes from a hymn expresses what Rossi might applaud as transformative and introspective ‘’odd time” with a bluesy feel, or some such thing. Whatever the analysis, this album features innovation, exceptionalism, and what this writer simplistically would call, “just good ole unconventional jazz”!

The Mike Rossi Project: Take Another Five is dedicated to Dave Brubeck and Nelson Mandela and
features Andrew Ford (piano), Kevin Gibson (drums), Charles Lazar (double bass), William Haubrich (trombone) and Marco Maritz (trumpet & fugelhorn) with special guest Darren English (trumpet). Mike Rossi plays baritone, tenor, alto, altello, and soprano saxophone, clarinet and flute.

Publication 'Odd Times"

Publication ‘Odd Times”

 

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Pan-African Live Jazz sizzles at Grahamstown: A CD Review by Carol Martin

This is mixed African music at its best. ‘Live at Grahamstown’ features a world-renowned South African duo of multi-instrumental specialist Pops Mohamed, and his faithful side-kick, Dave Reynolds on steel pan and acoustic guitar.

A Traveling Pair - Dave Reynolds & Pops Mohamed

A Traveling Pair – Dave Reynolds & Pops Mohamed

In this live performance at the 2015 Standard Bank Jazz Festival in Grahamstown, they are backed by another impressive array of world-class musicians: Capetown-born Tony Cedras adds rhythm and texture with his accordion, guitar, and trumpet; Mozambique-born Frank Paco is no stranger on the percussion and drum scene; and Congolese singer/songwriter Sylvain Baloubeta punctuates all songs with his electric bass and falsetto vocals. In fact, all musicians sing and harmonize on this exciting album which melds African indigenous sounds and rhythms with contemporary expressions and improvisation.

Dave Reynolds & Pops Mohamed

Dave Reynolds & Pops Mohamed

All musicians carry not only highly experienced musical weight but a faithfulness to fundamental African beats and bites that they have grown up with. The album moves from earthy messages to past and present blessings to the inevitable spiritual conclusions of life. How better to do this than with blended accordion-steelpan-kora sounds of the soul. Cudos go to Pops Mohamed who wrote the musical score for the South African-made film, The Whale Caller, which recently won an award for Best African Film at this month’s Johannesburg Film Festival.

‘Hands in the Sand’ starts the journey with lovely mellow harmonies from all musicians, almost like settling into their early mission to create harmony. To realize mission, one needs to dream so here enters a brief introduction of the kora, which swings handsomely into a South African swing in ‘Ons Gaan Huis Toe’. Cedras’s accordion presents that familiar morabi sound, steadied by Baloubeta’s electric bass. One feels the home-grown texture of this danceable song.

Dave Reynolds with Tony Cedras, accordion

Dave Reynolds with Tony Cedras, accordion

Throughout the album, Mohamed speaks poetry, both literally and musically. ‘Welcome to the Future’ starts with the soothing relief of the rain stick and his vocals, with earthy undertones held nicely by Reynolds’ equally calming steelpan. This is truly a peace song for the future, for unborn babies, referencing a list of sterling world leaders who have delivered. It’s a refreshing memorial to what can be, as it welcomes the next song on the album, ‘Spirit’. The band manages to engage the audience as they clap into the future, accompanied by a profoundly spiritual buzz from Cedras’s accordion which brings on more applause. More Khoisan vocals and poetry from Mohamed at the end adds further release of the spirit.

Now, we are only half way into the album, and already sniffing a touch of nirvana.

A ghoema swing takes off by Reynolds in ‘Malay Jam’ and awakens that dancing spirit. This moving piece reeks of Cape rhythms, as does ‘Breakfast Ghoema’ as the Reynolds and Cedras swing their way joyfully and energetically to start a new day.  Have we entered nirvana yet?

The album ends with two songs, ‘‘Never Again’, with Mohamed’s African mbira with the Cedras accordion and vocal harmonies which spin the listener softly and delightfully onto another sonic plane. A soft duo of Kora and steelpan in ‘Song for Jos’ brings closure to this eclectic and ambitious album, transporting the listener to another part of Africa, with fond memories about what talents abound among touring South Africans and their pan-African bands.

Reynolds with bassist Sylvain Baloubeta

Reynolds with bassist Sylvain Baloubeta

This album is a winner! Don’t miss its launches this weekend:

Friday, 11 November – KMA Soiree, Hout Bay (021 790 4457 bookings)
Saturday, 12 November – Blue Bird Garage, Muizenberg (evening)
Sunday, 13 November – Guga S’thebe, Langa (afternoon)

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Jazz trumpeter Darren English imagines hope in debut album “Imagine Nation”, with tributes to Nelson Mandela

Capetownian trumpeter, Darren English, kicks off his debut album by Hot Shoe Records (2016) with an original, “Imagine Nation”, a call to youth to make a better day! The first of a three part suite, it’s a melodic song mostly in the minor keys, and shows Darren’s wide range of tones on his trumpet.

imagine-nation-by-darren-english

Nostalgically, I still  ‘imagine’ those Monday night jazz jam sessions at Cape Town’s Swingers when 15 year old Darren, wearing his Beatles hairdo, and always accompanied by his indefatigably supportive father, Trevor,  would silence the packed crowd by his trumpet wizardry. We knew we had another South African catch of a musician who would go places. Indeed he has, 11 years later, cutting this debut album, after having finished his Master’s degree at Georgia State University in Atlanta where he continues to teach jazz studies and perform with various groups in USA. Hence, my affectionate ‘Darren’ reference.

“Body and Soul” presents a rather interesting start with a duo between a bowed double bass and Darren’s muted trumpet. It seems he has deliberately made his trumpet sound flat, confident, no frills technique, no vibratos. A simple rendition of an ole classic.

Smooth runs characterize Darren’s offerings as he faultlessly scales his instrument’s prowess with dignity and pureness. You’d think he’s been playing for decades!

The faster paced “Bebop”, a Dizzy Gillespie classic, displays a fluid trumpet with clean runs and boppish attitude. Drums and bass click away, heralding Darren’s pace, with a lovely solo by bassist Billy Thorton. The even faster paced “What a Little Moonlight Can Do’ introduces Grammy song lark, Atlanta-based Carmen Bradford, who shows off her impressive credentials behind her bebop vocals. I hesitate to compare such uniqueness with other greats, but I must say, her scat, tonation, and jazzy pitch brings about memories of Carmen McRae and Nancy Wilson for me. Her mood control in “Skylark” excelled.

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The album mellows its pace with a moving and emotional presentation of Nelson Mandela’s wise words from radio interviews, as he brought South Africa’s democracy forward, with advice. ‘Pledge for Peace’, a second Darren original as part of the ‘Imagine Nation’ theme, supports imagining a nation leading a peaceful parade towards responsible freedoms. This song carefully mixes interviews with interplays between trumpet and tenor sax, all which fill the sound space with sunshine and hope, but with caution.

Midway in the album is the third song of the ‘Imagine Nation’ theme, “The Birth” which appropriately describes Darren’s longing for a new nation free of the apartheid past. A long piece, almost 12 minutes, it contains impressive trumpet runs, syncopation with rhythmic gaps of sound, off beats, behind beats, etc. Greg Tardy’s tenor sax is electric. This piece is full of conversation, dipping a lot into fast bebop, then softer slower ballad moods punctuated with horn dialogues….signifying no births are ‘easy’ or smooth. A very ambitious original.

Kenny Banks, Jr’s piano in the Frank Loesser song, “I’ve Never Been in Love Before”, provides classic bebop thrills along side Darren’s muted and even accompaniment . This duo piece is a real hit in the album!

“Bullet in the Gunn”, another original and a tribute to another trumpet mentor, Russsell Gunn, features blistering trade-offs between Darren’s trumpet and the wailing sax of Greg Tardy in occasionally frantic conversations.

The last track, “Cherokee”, presents fast runs by each musician, feasting on and sparring with each other’s energies, but they tended to blend into one men-otanous sound piece for me. I’m not one for blaring horns, but I felt these frantic snorts turned a reputable classic into a blah blah race run. On the other hand, having heard Joe Gransden’s trumpet at jazz jams in Atlanta several years ago, which the younger Darren also attended, it is obvious that Gransden’s style and wit has firmly rubbed off onto Darren’s technique. The two men simply gel and Darren knows it, and is proud to have such a mentor.

Darren-English-Harley-sepia

Darren English remains a formidable ‘young gun’ far beyond just South Africa’s jazz scene, and has been blessed with craft and skills to carry him holistically into a successful future. I am also very proud to say that Darren’s success carries with it a notable humility, yet adventure, in learning to be better. Just better! Watch his space!

See my December 2014 blurb: http://www.alljazzradio.co.za/2014/12/04/carol-martin-chat-with-cape-jazz-trumpeter-darren-english/
The album features: Darren English (tpt); Kenny Banks Jr. (pno); Billy Thornton (bs); Chris Burroughs (dms) + Carmen Bradford (vcl); Greg Tardy (tenor sax); Russell Gunn (tpt); Joe Gransden (tpt).

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Acoustically tripping with Deep South’s Skillan and Ledbetter in Heartland

Skillan and Ledbetter’s Deep South brings “acoustic ‘trip folk’ with a hint of jazz, African groove and Nordic precision” to their latest Heartland album. And what a treat, just released on 1 October 2015 !! Multi-instrumentalist Dave Ledbetter and the percussive talents of Ronan Skillan (table, udu, percussion, didgeridoo, and hybrid kit) are adequately supported by several Swedish artists, with whom the two South Africans have worked over the years. Heartland offers hauntingly melodic compositions by guitarist Dave Ledbetter, all with a nordic acoustic twist of musical imagination.

Skillan, Ledbetter with Björn Meyer in Bern

Skillan, Ledbetter with Björn Meyer in Bern

Recorded and co-produced in Bern, Switzerland, thanks to Swiss Arts Council (Pro Helvetia) supports, the artists include: Fredrik Gille on riq, frame drum, and percussion. He specialises in flamenco and Arabic percussion. Watch a wonderful display of his frame drum solo at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2wREUu1U_hs.   Jan Galega Brönnimann on bass clarinet and Samuel Würgler on trumpet and flugelhorn and co-producer bassist Björn Meyer make up this stellar artist line-up.

This album starts off with an engaging one-note strum in ‘Little Dan’ and moves with different rhythms from Ledbetter’s piano which becomes copied by his guitar. Ripples and waves of sounds ooze from flamenco castanets, Ronen’s percussions, back to that one note addiction, muted strings…. And that’s just the beginning!

Those of us who have listened to Ledbetter over the ages will hear his familiar tunes, always performed differently depending on the ‘Spaces Between Places’, as this tune suggests.

Deep South Heartland CD cover

Deep South Heartland CD cover

 

In ‘Harbour Intro’, I hear echoes of several depths of Ledbetter’s guitar which, for me, symbolizes looking at the calm ripples of sea waters at the shore, looking southwards. Sounds reverberate as they swing into ‘Harbour’ with Ledbetter’s joyful guitar. Percussions add that folksy element and move into poppish 4/4 beats. Ledbetter’s harmonic chords are rarely jarring.

‘Forest Road’ is named after a major road leading into central Nairobi. This sleepy ballad brings out the breathy bass clarinet of Jan Gelega Brönnimann which harmonizes with Ledbetter’s soft rhythmic scenes. How often do you hear a bass clarinet in folk/jazz? This is a favourite piece!

Now that the listener has settled back and become very relaxed, the ear starts its journey towards realizing nirvana. The next tracks on this eclectic, soothing album, present soundscapes reminiscent of ‘nordic’ meditation, like in ‘Moonchild’, with a clear and crisp trumpet of Samuel Würgler. We move on to an Indian groove, ‘Awagawan’, which has a most unusual collaboration between Skillan’s didgeridoo with tabla overtones and Brönnimann’s whispering bass clarinet. This is just a whopping super treat on the album, plain and simple ! This Indian spiritual belief of Awagawan says that only good Karma can liberate us from The Wheel of Eighty-Four, or the cycle of ‘Awagawan’. The song is a tribute to the late, greatly missed Gito Baloyi who was murdered on the streets on Johannesburg, and was a stunning guitarist team member of Tenanas. It connotes the karmic birth and rebirth of style, form and sound, as well as deed, in our lives. Beware: don’t repeat actions which produce recurring sufferings in your lives!

‘Gone but Not Forgotten’ follows as the karmic journey continues. This is the longest song on the album, has lots to say, so one can easily meditate on the soft, slow nuances. Sometimes funereal, the wistful conversations between all four instruments hold attention and purpose. Listen carefully because towards the end, there’s a wonderful trumpet surprise. All is not forgotten!

‘Clovelly’ offers a bluesy jazz twist to this delightful song led by Ledbetter’s piano. Just when I thought my mind and spirit would have been cleansed of all evil karmic intentions, after the previous meditative offerings, along comes ‘Time Out’. Yes, I need that! This one’s for the body, I guess. Another slow, stereophonic tone poem which tunes the ear, certainly relaxes muscles, and celebrates with a higher registered bass clarinet, unique in all ways.

This is acoustic at its best, a blend of jazz, folk, funk and blues across global spectrums!

ALBUM LAUNCH!!
Don’t miss the South African launch of Heartland on 14 November 2015 at 7.30pm
Where: The Reeler Theatre at Rondebosch Boys’ High School
– Canigou Avenue, Rondebosch, Cape Town
How much: R100 on Quicket or R120 at the door

Highly reputable South African musicians join, like regular Deep South bassist, Shaun Yohannes, and JHB-based trumpeter Marcus Wyatt of ‘Language 12’.    What could be better?

Heartland CD Launch

Heartland CD Launch

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“Love Letter to Cape Town” draws out the indigenous bloodheart of Tony Cedras, a CD Review

This album, full of harmonies, draws us into a world not of fantasy or fancy lyrics, but of soundscapes echoing the joyous resonations of originality from the ancient language of a First Peoples, the Khoisan.

The indigenous bloodheart of multi-instrumentalist Tony Cedras, born in CapeTown in 1952, an early mover in the Cape jazz scene, then long exiled overseas and active in the anti-apartheid activities, is also known for his arrangements with the early band of Paul Simon. Cedras announces his return to his Cape homeland in this beautifully organized album recorded in Cape Town at Milestone studios and published in 2015 by Zurich Sessions Featured Artists.

Tony Cedras on accordion at Straight No Chaser, CapeTown

Tony Cedras on accordion at Straight No Chaser, CapeTown

A block buster array of musicians matching the spirit of this Khoisan soul make up this exceptional album. The promo video on his website doesn’t show Cedras playing accordion for some reason, but gives a good feel about the other musicians that make up this album. Deeply anchored in his heart is the preservation and recognition of the Aboriginal Khoisan peoples of Southern Africa, and his album certainly raises awareness of their dwindling, yet vibrant, heritage and culture.

Appropriately, his ancestral soil is felt in the opening track, //Hui !Goeb, with Cedras’ flugelhorn and Khoisan chanted clicks presenting soundscapes of the Ancient Nation’s Sacred Sites “where rainclouds gather”. Cedras says,
“As a descendant of an Ancient Nation, I am inspired by the significance of our Sacred Sites and it is central to my creativity.”

The next track, ‘Genesis’, offers a melodic tour through our original peoples of Africa, from South Africa to Tanzania to Zambia and beyond. Typical South African beats with congas are heard, absorbed with horn harmonies. Three energetic strumming guitars of Cedras, Errol Dyers on acoustic, and the notable Steve Newman on Soprano, along with backing vocals, explain Cedras’ life journey: “My life’s journey is one that exposed me to a myriad of cultures; I have always been curious about individual life stories and relocation. Irrespective of the motivation of movement, it brings about a new beginning that ultimately defines who we are.”

Probably the most beautiful, but not a Cedras original, song on this album is his unique arrangement of ‘Yakal Nkomo’ of the late great saxophonist, Winston Ngozi Mankunku, with rhythmic mbaqanga beats dancing nicely out of Cedras’ accordion. Cedras also plays guitars, keyboards, drums, and synth bass in this rendition, the latter which skilfully produce the off-colour sound of protesting bellowing bulls. Cedras says

“Reflecting on my musical career is to acknowledge those who inspired me. This was a favourite composition of the late Mankunku, a legendary tenor saxophone player whom I met in the early 70’s. He had an encouraging spirit and was an inspiration to my musical career.”

Tony Cedras at Straight No Chaser

Tony Cedras at Straight No Chaser

‘Horizons’ was written by Cedras in Botswana and recorded during his 1989 Graceland Tour with Paul Simon. It’s a song about Africa’s gift to world humanity, rapidly strummed on the guitars of Cedras and Dyers, with entrancing backing vocals.

Other songs convincingly present the sounds and feel of journeying through Africa dragging South African origins along, from Elsie’s River outside of Cape Town to a Congolese ballad sung crisply by Freshly Ground vocalist, Zolani Mahola, and back to South African folkish strings of Rayelle Goodman’s violin and Cedras’ guitar in ‘Autshumao Suite,’ a stunningly joyful upbeat piece. Cedras songs move between a very danceable masqanda beat of ‘Black Brown Cheri White’ to Mahola’s crystal clear ballad voice in the churchy ‘Mother Song’.

The album ends with a melodic middle eastern flair, ‘Journey to Alkebulan’, thanks to Rustin’s double bass stringing. It seemed a bit dour after the previous joyful uplifting songs, but the album’s presentations resonate long after the headphones come off.

If there was ever an album to pick up your spirits and move on, this is it! Transformative. This is not background music. You sing and hum along, and can’t keep yourself from dancing! Soundcloud sources mention genres of his album as ‘African jazz, jazz, klopse, goema’. It fits into no category – I could venture to say the album is ‘traditional but contemporary South African folk’. Or better still, just plain ‘music’ that draws out the emotions, hopes and dreams!

To Learn more about the South Africans performing on the album, go to Cedras’ website: http://www.zurichsessions.com/featured-artists/tony-cedras/. The Zurich Sessions is a musical get-together of some of the finest international and Swiss musicians and promotes collaboration with others.

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Jazz pianist Bokani Dyer cuts ‘anti-genre’ album, “World Music”

Twenty nine year old Bokani Dyer, born in Botswana of a Kalanga Motswana mother (whence, he got his name, ‘Bokani’) and a white musician father, Steve, who was living in exile during apartheid, has two SAMRO awards to his name. He also recently performed from his new album, “World Music”, at the 2015 Grahamstown National Arts Festival which brought the world closer to what Dyer calls his “anti-genre” music. This was part of his Prohelvetia southern Africa tour with his Swiss Quartet, being connections started during his 2014 residency at the Bird’s Eye Jazz Club in Basel. These original songs in this, his third, album were composed over several years.

Let’s see what this man with a message means in this eclectic assortment of sounds.

CM: ‘World Music’ – I’m hearing various genres…. Where is Bach?
BD: Bach appears on the first notes of the album, in “Waiting, Falling”, composed while I was practicing preludes and fugues, and types of harmonies and structures of melody. This study led me to him. The title refers to the musical aspect of phrases, and contours of music, like waiting for the beat to come, then making a note fall. Lee-Anne Fortuin is on vocals.

Bokani Dyer with Marlon Witbooi & Shane Cooper

Bokani Dyer with Marlon Witbooi & Shane Cooper

CM: Yes, with an even-toned, almost meditative spirit about her…. I liked “Vuvuzela” which starts off with a Latin sound, followed by your impressive piano runs. Buddy Wells’ tenor sax comes with a post-bebop swing. The two saxes and one trumpet sound very much together.
BD: This song was written during the Soccer World Cup period in 2010. It has a jubilant, South African spirit about it.

CM: Yes, it was sassy and fun. The repetitious 3 bar refrain does remind one how monotonous listening to a one-note vuvuzela can be! Next, I found “Reflections” mild and reflective, almost funereal. This mellow mood swings directly into “Outro” (composed with vocalist Moleshe) with repetitive vocal chants accompanying the same reflective chord pattern of your piano, aka vuvuzela. But it was “Transit” that I found most interesting. One hears Arendse’s guitar runs and plucks which set the tone for this piece, while the piano scurries and hops over these plucks. This is a bouncy piece, again showing your versatile chord structures.
BD: The beginning of this song is Herbie Hancock-ish which is a feel I like. It then moves into other influences, from Bheki Mseleku’s ballad style to the Mozambiquan rhythms.

CM: I can definitely hear that Mseleku sound in your chords. The synthesizer wails out the tune with drummer, Marlon Witbooi, keeping the pace consistent. I liked this transit – from piano to synthesizer.
BD: Yes, it’s my love of the synthesizer here and electronic sounds. I played it alot when performing with Jimmy Dludlu and loved being able to bend notes which can’t be done on a piano. I love that, to make a note expressive and ‘slide’, like the guitars do, and make the note sing. It’s anti-genre music! It fragments the ballad.

CM: You like spontaneity…..
BD: Yes. For instance, in “The Artist”, which was written in blurbs and sketches composed over time, it feels like a classic jazz ballad. When I go to jazz concerts, I get thought patterns while listening. Then the inspiration of the moment comes, like with this song.

CM: That’s what I call ‘jazz’: inspirations of the moment, with a response, in spontaneity, unwritten. Your “interlude: See My People Through” seems to be a wonderful frenetic sounding story of migration, almost gospel-like as appeals to the Almighty are made. There’s something hopeful and seeking in the message. It’s short but then swings into the next funky song, “Recess”, with the drum continuing that spiritual theme. Marlon’s drum is always behind the beat, giving that funky layback sound again, like a soul fusion. There was the resolution. Really nice!
BD: This was my fusion piece, with layback R&B sounds.

CM: Then in “Keynote”, we are brought back to a traditional 4/4 be-bop style. One hears a seasoned Belair alto sax pounding out impressive runs and messages. The song moves into a Middle Eastern flair in a minor key, an interesting juxtaposition with an American bebop.
BD: I was listening alot to Kenny Garrett and Terence Blanchard whose influences relate to this song.

CM: Your trumpeter, Robin Fassie-Cock, offers nice runs in “Master of Ceremony” along with Buddy’s sax.
BD: Robin is young, only 22 years old in his fourth year at University, but has a marvellous future ahead of him. He just left for a year study in Norway a few weeks ago.

CM: With “African Piano – Water”, this is a cute pluck pluck dittie with paper covering piano strings, almost like a beginner’s piano 101 with chordal harmony and a playful beat. It sounds like water splashing over rocks!
BD: I wanted to give an Mbira sound, like one hears in Zimbabwe. I am using an overdub, layering piano sounds which echo the effects of water. Then, the last piece on the album, “Motho wa Modimo”, follows that same Africanness of purpose. It means ‘person of God’ literally, but is used in Setwana when something of gravity happens.

CM: This is a solemn piece ending the album. Personally, I would have preferred a more upbeat swing to end this eclectic mix of sounds presented, but ‘Motho’ does offer meditative resolution to messages earlier presented.

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Inside the CD jacket sleeve is a fascinating collage of concepts through words and phrases connoting issues faced by humanity’s masses: “ten million midwives carrying fresh fruit”, “twenty six kora strings to pluck”, “twenty six thousand Somali sheep on their way to slaughter”, “fifty seven thousand car guards queuing for their salary”, “fifteen years of questions between voodoo and black messiah”. Reading this sleeve keeps you gripped with these little word bites that surround our global realities. It then became evident to me that Camerounian journalist and artist, DJ Ntone, from Chimeranga mazazine wrote this sleeve.

Bokani Dyer & Swiss Quartet at Straight No Chaser, Cape Town

Bokani Dyer & Swiss Quartet at Straight No Chaser, Cape Town

CM: Tell me about your projects with electronic music.
BD: I’ve been influenced by Vijay Iyer’s piano playing for its freshness, and Robert Glasper for his determination in sticking to the alternative. I’ve been listening alot to electronic music, particularly people like Alice Coltrane’s nephew, “Flying Lotus”, who produces instrumental-like hip hop grooves with rapping or real instruments. I am experimenting with vocalist Sakhile Moleshe who is part of the “Soul Housing” project, to make up our two-man band using laptop effects with vocals and keyboard only. Sakhile does all sorts of sounds vocally, which is why I include him in “World Music”.

CM: So this is like a beginning ‘world’ Episode, with Episodes 2 and 3 coming?
BD: The next step is to get more into electronic music, with no instruments. I want to produce sound, manipulate it, and open it up, make crazy sounds which are free flowing, outside of any performances. These sounds are present in the world I grew up in, and are present now, with sometimes chaos, stress, anxiety, joys, etc, so I want to harness them and experiment with that.

CM: What else is next?
BD: I think I want to carry this thread of the African piano further. I’d like to put together a collection of pieces played by two or three pianos at the same time, playing interlocking rhythms similar to what mbiras and balafons sound like. For now, I do it alone with a loop pedal. Also, Kyle Shepherd and I are experimenting; we played two pianos at last year’s Cape Town International Jazz Festival. That worked like a dream! Because we’re both piano players, we don’t get a chance to play together. Our repertoire was half mine, half his, and all original material. He and I have spoken about doing a recording together.

CM: You’ve travelled outside the country. Where would you like to visit or go for mentoring and work with other musicians?
BD: I plan to use the rest of my SAMRO scholarship of 2013, preferably in New York. So I’m going to apply for an 01 visa to USA, and start identifying a mentor. Also, I’d like to network and find performance opportunities. In 2010, I visited New York and mentored for a few weeks with pianist, Jason Moran, which was very useful. When I visited London last year in November, performing at the London Jazz Festival, I was also able to perform with saxophonist Soweto Kinch. I have been very privileged to have Niki Froneman manage my recent Southern Africa tour with the Swiss Quartet this year, so I look forward to more of these opportunities.

CM: Have you recorded with your father, Steve?
BD: I was on his album, “Ubuntu Music”, which came out 3-4 years ago. We’re doing something together this weekend in JHB.

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Bokani Dyer will continue to have a special relationship not only with his piano, but with us listeners who find rest and calmness in his varied songs.

Published by his own Dyertribe Music, “World Music” features:
Bokani Dyer (piano, keyboards, synthesizer) Shane Cooper (double and electric bass) Marlon Witbooi (drums) Buddy Wells (tenor saxophone) Justin Bellairs (alto saxophone) Robin Fassie-Kock (trumpet) Sakhile Moleshe (vocals) Lee-Anne Fortuin (vocals) and John Hassan (percussion and vocals)

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Robert Glasper visits his favourites while Nduduzo Makhathini sings his own songs – but both pianists have the music covered AUGUST 23, 2015

sisgwenjazz Blog

Sis Gwen Ansell

Sis Gwen Ansell

A long time ago – well, around the early 1990s – jazz performances in Joburg often featured more than their fair share of covers. They were usually covers of South African originals: Laukutshon’Ilanga, Nytilo Ntyilo and the like. Nevertheless, it is easy to forget now how dramatic has been the explosion in the past quarter-century of new, original, local repertoire. These days, a stage version of Laukutshon’Ilanga at somewhere like The Orbit is a rarity; to succeed, artists don’t just need their own sound and skill, they need their own music too.

Listening to the Ground

Listening to the Ground

Pianist Nduduzo Makathini is in no danger of failing that test. To his two 2014 albums Mother Tongue and Sketches of Tomorrow, he has now added a 16-track double album, Listening to the Ground (http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/nduduzomakhathini3 ). It is a big collection not only in scope and imagination, but also in sound. Makhathini’s core trio – on this outing comprising Magne Thormodsæter on bass and longtime companion Ayanda Sikade on drums – is augmented by other impressive voices, including reedman Karl-Martin Almqvist, trumpeter Robin Fassie Kock, percussionist el Hadj Ngari Ndong and the voice of Omagugu Makhathini.

Nduduzo Makhathini. Credit: Standard Bank

Nduduzo Makhathini. Credit: Standard Bank

The material ranges widely, from the richly patterned pan-African groove of Lagos Blues and King Fela to the disassembled and reconstructed mbaqanga of From an Old Bag of Mkhumbane, with stops at church, traditional community, avant-garde jazz club and family along the way.

Makhathini is a highly individual composer. While the rolling, sombre introduction to Supreme Light reminds us that the inspirational shadow of Abdullah Ibrahim is never too far from any South African pianist, the rest of the tune goes in a very different, edgier direction. For You is a classic mid-paced ballad that might have been written to get dancers out on the floor. It also shows off nicely the pianist’s virtuosity. As for the Mkhumbane tune, when I heard it live it did get the dancers out for some far more old-school South African revels, and looks set fair to become an audience-request favourite.

Listening to the Ground feels more polished than the 2014 releases – one of the advantages that the resources of the Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz award brings is time to concentrate on the music. To underline that point, the album revisits an earlier track, Imvunge for two minutes of intense, helter-skelter exploration that distills the essence of that quirky theme. As both player and composer, Makhathini is now a formidable force in new South African music, and this album should be travelling far and wide to announce that fact.

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Robert Glasper's new album Covered (Blue Note)

Robert Glasper’s new album Covered (Blue Note)

While South African players are reveling in the freedom to compose for their own recordings, American pianist Robert Glasper has made his latest release, Covered (Blue Note) the occasion – as its title implies – to visit music from some other people as well as himself. In a straight-up jazz trio format, he works with bassist Vicente Archer and drummer Damion Reid: the players with whom he launched his Blue Note jazz career a decade ago, before he gathered a hip-hop following too.

The dozen-song selection is eclectic (“A mix of new and old songs that I love,” Glasper calls them), from old chestnut Stella by Starlight to I Don’t Even Care from Black Radio 2, from Joni Mitchell to Radiohead, and more. Most beautiful for me was Glasper’s version of Jhene Aiko Chilombo’s The Worst, which you can sample on Glasper’s website at http://www.robertglasper.com More bits of cover material pop up in his own In Case You Forgot, peppered with quotes including Time After Time.

It doesn’t really matter what genre label you hang around Glasper’s neck, he is a sensitive and imaginative player who always follows the most intriguing paths a tune presents. I Don’t Even Care is here a fragile packet of musical surprises; In Case You Forgot, almost a fugue. By contrast Stella has been, in his own words “flipped and re-harmonised to make it more digestible.” It sounds like one of the old masters – maybe Bill Evans? – except…not. It’s definitely Glasper, creating from a 1944 tune something that 2015 audiences can feel.

There are voices on the album too. Glasper treats the gig as if he were in an intimate club, conversing with the audience, taking on board a self-aware rap about survival from elder statesman Harry Belafonte, and orchestrating the conscious, poignant, children’s voices that interlock on I’m Dying of Thirst, the final track: a protest against the racist waste of African-American lives.

Glasper has spoken (http://www.motherjones.com/media/2015/06/robert-glasper-covered-interview ) of the beauty he finds in repetition and simplicity. This album has both: the repetition of groove and intricate patterning, and the simplicity of a gorgeous, un-ornamented piano line that can break your heart.

Robert Glasper

Robert Glasper

“I missed the piano,” Glasper has said. “I feel like people forget I’m a piano player.” They never could, but in some of those more texturally crowded (and essentially collective) hip-hop contexts, our ears had to search for his sound. For those of us who missed those beautiful lines, Covered inspires a heartfelt ‘Welcome back’.

Composing, and interpreting music composed by another, are two different musical skills. Not every player has both in equal measure. Coltrane or Miles Davis could make you hear a simple, silly pop tune in a startlingly fresh way, with a wholly different emotional impact, through interpretation alone (watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bga8gFkDLIg ). So while we revel in the compositional riches that a player such as Makathini can bring us, Glasper’s album is a welcome reminder that we need to cherish our great interpreters too.

 

For more go to www.sisgwenjazz.wordpress.com

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Mike del Ferro’s “The Johannesburg Sessions”, a CD Review by C. Martin

Here comes another improvisational jewel of an album from Dutchman Mike del Ferro, whose piano keys, heart, and well-versed skills combine traditional South African sounds with electronic wizardry of fellow band members, all South African. Challenge Records is offering this third album, “The Johannesburg Sessions”, as part of a 10-album series that present del Ferro’s “songs inspired by wandering the globe”. His South African experience of absorbing local jazz sounds, rural and urban rhythms, and musings with traditional healers has produced another magically enlightening study in sound. Like his recent workshop “Working in Sound” at the March 2015 SAJE conference (South African Association for Jazz Education), del Ferro explores how electronic effects open up avenues for compositions which wed the traditional human and animal sounds with contemporary improvisation. More about that later.

The Johannesburg Sessions

Cover: “The Johannesburg Sessions”

The album is filled with Zulu and Xhosa vocal chants (from Zulu singer Mbuso Khoza) mixed with electronica of bassist/composer Carlo Mombelli, and punctuated with African rhythmic sounds of drummer Kesivan Naidoo and percussionist Thebe Lipere. It opens with a lilting Zulu song, “Smomondiya”, about a beautiful Zulu woman. One hears Khoza’s falsetto voice enamoured with her image. “Ntylo Ntylo” followed by “Goema on Saturday” ring familiar to the local popular song and Cape rhythms. Naidoo kicks off in characteristic goema style with del Ferro’s piano chords and phrases and Khoza’s vocal chants announcing the joyful street dances and parades reminiscent of the January Cape Carnival.
“Umlolozelo” is an absolutely beautiful traditional Zulu ballad, presented skilfully by Khoza’s gentle and wide soprano voice range as is his other slow ballad, “Imbusise” meaning ‘Lord bless the work of my hands’. An interesting 12/8 improvisation is “Twelfish” with familiar worldly percussive effects but fundamentally African. The final songs feature Khoza’s tributes to his cultural kingdoms of old, of the late 1870s Zulu King Cetshwayo’s reign with original scores by del Ferro in “Leyla” and “Mpushini”, which is a melodic del Ferro song with Khoza spoken lyrics about the river that runs next to his native village in KZN. It ends the album on a meditative note.

My favourite on the album comes in the middle: “The Mosquito Loop” is fun. The mozzie buzz is always there, glittering with the electronic effects of bassist Mombelli playing with his pedals as he enjoys doing. There is something ‘traditional’ (in keeping with the album’s otherwise African sounds) about the ever-present and monotonous mosquito buzz as the piano echoes in short phrases as the percussion taps out energy and the drum rolls crescendo (Naidoo’s signature method) just as the mozzie lands. The psychedelic electronica merges as mozzie flies away happy! This is a fascinating study in pedal loop improvisation – just make sure your stereophonic range is well tuned.

I can’t wait to hear the subsequent 7 albums yet to come in this 10-part masterful series of global sounds.

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Del Ferro is also a master of improvisation workshops as exhibited in several ‘shops’ I attended in March.  Nobuhle Mazinyane, a 16 year old Grade 11 student at Groote Schuur High School, played her own composition at Mike’s workshop “Working in Sound” on 30 March 2015.

Mike del Ferro coaching Nobuhle Mazinyane

Mike del Ferro coaching Nobuhle Mazinyane

“Try to give each note more or less the same value. The stretch of your hand – one note in the chord can make a big difference.” He explained how the electronic keyboard can guide one’s composition with the different harmonies and sounds (like scat). “With the Roland (keyboard), I play different harmonies because the overtones change. I never use the ‘piano’ sound on the electric piano. Trick is to send a note behind the bar, a syncopation….”

In his other workshop, “Self management and networking for musicians”, he advises: “It is essential for starting (and non starting) musicians to have the right organizational and networking skills in order to create a successful career in music”.” Don’t wait too late to learn these skills. Network your sounds: “….12/8 and 6/8 time – you hear this in Senegal and South Africa. There are lots of inspirations from African rhythms and traditions.”

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Mike del Ferro’s dizzying schedule of ‘wandering the globe’ can be seen on his website, www.mikedelferro.com, along with a multitude of video clips that offer armchair travelers an array of those globalized sounds ala Mike.

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Young American jazz saxophonist releases debut album with Capetownians

An Interview with Tristan James Weitkamp by C. Martin

“Flash in the Pan” , the debut album of 23 year old Tristan James Weitkamp, talks about issues of the heart brought on by contemporary social incongruities. Here’s a young jazz artist with a message. A native of Portland, Oregon, Tristan has crafted his Cape Town band, called New Horizons, to produce an exciting assortment of home-grown, South African-influenced songs with stories. The album will be released this June by Milestone Studios followed by gigs in Cape Town on 12 (UCT/SACM C7) and 18 June (Straight No Chaser).

I interviewed the band members during their studio ‘shoot’ and found some very creative and ambitious guys and gals willing to give their all. There are a host of guest artists performing in this ambitious album: Ludwe Danxa plays keyboard; Revon October plays electric bass; Ndumiso Manan and Diana Neil on vocals; Dizu Plaatjies on pipe flute; James McClure and Marco Maritz on trumpets; Georgie Jones on baritone sax; Tammy Breakey on flute; and Norwegian guitarist, Gorm. The poet is Kgmotso Malele.

But firstly, let’s hear from the young maestro himself.

TJW: I had studied music at college in Portland, Oregon, but wanted a break to study African affairs more closely. One professor I had in Oregon was Darrell Grant, a pianist who accompanied Better Carter band, inspired me to explore the world more when my family held house concerts featuring Darrell. This led to my applying to the University of Cape Town (UCT) for African Studies. I also knew UCT had a vibrant music school which is why I brought my sax. So, my family helped raise my funds for an expensive tuition at UCT. I also jammed with musicians and never dreamt I would end my year cutting my first jazz album with these wonderful musicians!

Tristan at Piano Bar

Tristan at Piano Bar

CM: I understand you have strong messages to convey in your album, like in your song, “Coffee Stains”.

TJW: My most authentic composition is ‘Coffee Stains on Cardboard Boxes’, which is a duet between my sax and the double bassist. There’s a story on this from Prestwich Memorial, about how building developers found graves of slaves and exhumed them to build a new building, and doing this digging without consideration for the slave’s ‘rights’ to a dignified burial.

CM: [I thought to myself: How does a 23 year old ‘white’ American boy, coming to Africa, learn and incorporate a profoundly significant but little known historical incident (at least to average CapeTownians) about the treatment of slaves, dead or alive?]

TJW: The corpses of slaves were stored in these shelves, in this building, like they would be stored on a slave ship. I was in their mausoleum but the frontage was actually a coffee shop, like a corporate business. I think it’s a horrible modern day example of slavery, and how we do not take interest in what these people represented. Their memorial grave is being supported by money generated by coffee! That’s why I wrote this song, about coffee stains on cardboard boxes.

CM: You sound quite politically aware as an artist wanting to send out your concerns in your music. Have you been an activist of sorts?

TJW: Not really, but I’ve grown frustrated with the unchanging nature of our world. I’m seeing proposals made by Martin Luther King’s movement back in the 60s are not being achieved 60-70 years later. During College, I took several courses in African studies, and this enthused me to study further, which is why I came to UCT/CapeTown. I became exposed to hurtles and blocks to democracy in this country. I was seeing issues not much differently from other parts of the world. I arrived right after Mandela’s funeral. I’m a political animal, and am aware of the economic crisis. But studying African history and music – and political and social issues in South Africa – woke me up. UCT is a microcosm of the country. Political and social protests are being held amongst students and faculty/administration.

Through the African Studies department, I learned about the Prestwich Mortuary. Also, one visiting South American lecturer, Walter Mignolo, inspired me to understand how colonialism is a persistent trait, spawned out of the feudal and renaissance times, hand in hand with technological advances. History is not linear but vertical, one layer being built upon another. Apartheid is like this, accumulative history using ‘race as a way to measure….worth. He said, if we are concerned with race today, then it means we are still colonialists. If we did not make a big deal about ‘race’, then the subject would not be important and the issues would fall away. He talked about how you go about de-colonizing the human psyche because colonialism lives in the brain. We have to de-program our minds – get rid of the propaganda instilled in us.

CM: So where did you get “Flash in the Pan” as your album title?

TJW: Flash in the Pan comes from the time when firearms were muzzle-loaded, but nothing came to fruition. Big sensationalism with no real results. Like having a movement to remove Rhodes statue, to combat the neo-colonialism in the modern context, but when it happened, it only removed the statue. This created conversation, but nothing really changes. History remains. If you want to change, then change laws moving contemporary society along, not tear down historical statues.

Tristan at Tagoges

Tristan at Tagores

CM: Tell me how you chose your songs.

TJW: “Blackbird” by Paul McCartney, is a song he composed to convey the opportunity to fly, amidst the 1950s and 1960s black consciousness movement. Another song is about a meatgrinder – is a Cape jive tune with an American jazz twist. I was told by a friend from Delft that his home was like a meatgrinder in the township, because of the amounts of crime, people fighting with each other, grabbing what they can. It turns people around, grinds them up. Then another song, “Impetus”, is a force that sparks something, moves the boulder. ‘Flash in the Pan’ , a ballad tune I wrote, starts out as a Cape jive gospel intro, then completely changes. The album continues to deal with social issues, like ‘Coffee Stains’ with young bassist, Sean. The spoken word hip hop song has poet, Kgmotso Malele who starts off: “Silence is the loudest form of noise….”. When you get towards the end of the album, the ‘Blue Boat Home’, which comes from the Universalist hymnbook, has beautiful lyrics about a man’s ride from earth (the Blue Boat), travelling through space on a sea of stars , to reach ‘home’. This song was played at my grandfather’s funeral because it’s about going home to our final resting place. I wrote a jazz arrangement of it which is sung by a wonderful Cape Town singer, Diana Neil. Then comes “Down the River” and “Welcome Home” which I dedicated to my grandmother who is 100 years old now, and to my late grandfather, both who urged me to pursue music. “Here we are, all at home; without ruthlessness, without greed, …..”

CM: You leave South Africa this July to return home. What are your future plans?

TJW: I will go back to music, and prefer conducting. I like conducting an orchestra with woodwinds and choirs. New Horizons is not meant to be just a South African initiative; I plan to release the album in the States with another band. I’d like Zoe, my singer here, to come and do the release with me and give it a South African flavour.

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So who is New Horizons? I interviewed members of the band, and found an eclectic mix of cultures, musical persuasions, attitudes, and experiences.

Singer and composer, Zoe Modiga, offers soulful gospel and blues sounds, all improvised carefully with the occasional scat. Her low voice and poise give her a mature air that defies her young self. At 21 years of age, and having come from teenage years studying at Gauteng’s National School of Arts (NSA) and studies at UCT Jazz Studies, she has remarkable sound, sincerity, and carriage on stage as well as in her delivery. No wonder several bands include her regularly as their vocalist, such as the seasoned Frank Paco and Bokani Dyer, and the Jo Kunniji Experiment. Having won the local GrandWest’s Open Jazz Mic competition last year, Zoe will probably move on to other sites of Gauteng for more exposure and experience and further study, even incorporating other loves, like cooking and photography, to her list of skills.

Drummer Andre Swartz grew up in Retreat in Cape Town and graduated from UCT’s Jazz Studies. He is now married to an American lady from Dallas, Texas, and moves between his two country homes. He presently fills the position of Head of Faculty of Music at the Campus of the Performing Arts in Woodstock, which started in 2006 and specializes in contemporary music, mostly the pop genre.

“I intentionally wanted to depart from the traditional bebop jazz to phrasing of African rhythms, particularly with contemporary African jazz, and show what commonalities exist between these different time and cultural periods. I have the kit drum doing one thing, and the snare drum doing another thing, like that to get the polyrhythms. For instance, I have a high tam and a low tam and the snare which fills in, and then a djembe which clicks in. “

Pianist Blake Hellaby, presently teaching at Cape Town’s Wynberg Boys High School, believes in ‘giving back. “I feel music is the freest form of expression and can affect the positive transformations in the Cape Flats on people’s lives. The people living on the Cape Flats have never been told that they can become anything they want to be. They’ve never been told, ‘You don’t have to be a cleaner.’ I feel there’s room in South Africa to improve people’s lives and jazz needs to carry this message without being accused of becoming ‘political’”. Blake feels that indigenous South African music is becoming extinct. “The Klopse aren’t playing their own music any more. They’re playing American pop.”

Tristan was an international exchange student with African music specialist, Dizu Plaatjie, last year, so Dizu understands Tristan’s ideas and his willingness to play South African jazz music. Dizu offers a R5 irrigation pipe flute to the album, thus boosting the authentic African pipe soundscape in some songs.

The youngest in the band is 19 year old Sean Sanby who plays double bass, and loved having the freedom to express his own reactions to Tristan’s stories. A first year student at UCT SACM, Sean has already participated in five Grahamstown Youth Jazz Festivals, and played in the National Schools Big Band in 2013 and 2014. He also plays 16 string guitar, and was a member of the Cape Town Youth Orchestra 2015 and the Artscape Youth Jazz Band this year.

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Lara Solnicki: a CD Review of her “Whose Shadows?” by C Martin

While listening to “Whose Shadow?”, I marvel at the wealth of lyrics, messages, and the clear vibrato pitch which singer and composer, Lara Solnicki, gives to her chosen songs. No wonder! She has married her love of poetry with music. Her classical operatic training as a Verdian soprano melds nicely with her verbal creative side which authors and re-produces an exciting array of lyrics definitely worthy of the listener’s ear. Toronto-born daughter of filmmaker/author parents, Solnicki released this self-produced second album in March 2014; it became #1 on Radio Canada’s jazz charts following its Montreal launch in December 2014.

LaraSolnicki_WhoseShadow_500px

Her book of poems and experimental prose, “Disassembled Stars” (Lyrical Myrical Press) was published in 2006, and her poems continue to be read in Canadian and international magazines. Perhaps it was her poetic improvisational tendency that led her down the contemporary jazz lane. Besides her private voice teaching Solnicki continues to play in jazz circuits within Canada and beyond, when time allows.

“Whose Shadow?” presents a splash of lyrics with a Jodi Mitchell feel. But it’s Solnicki’s wide vocal range and crisp diction that delivers a highly melodic and soothing musical experience. One warning: like the title suggests, the songs move through misty, sombre, and at times, gloomy soundscapes, but carried by her respectable timbre. It’s about shadows….

‘Sunset’ is a Kate Bush song of iridescence, remembering the day’s activities and praising its crimson-turned-rust end, as the sax seems to hail in this display of colour which frizzles as dusk prepares us to bed down.

Several octaves are reached on ‘Freedom Dance’ and ‘Jim the Dancer’. In the latter, John Johnson’s bass clarinet, in a thoughtful melancholy, steers this sultry melody as the Dancer follows suit, hitting some high notes and displaying the instrument’s equally wide range as does Solnicki’s voice. A jewel of a song. ‘La Flute Enchantee’, sung in French, swings into a fast bebop featuring a masterful piano and double bass duet, then a flute punctuation with bird-like replies. Solnicki’s vocals takes us mystically into nature’s nuances in this wonderful song, my favourite on the album.

‘Music for a While’ has a classical direction with an operatic pull, influenced by Ravel and Purcell, perhaps. In ‘A Timeless Place (The Peacocks)’, a Jimmy Rowles song, this is not an easy climb through intricately weaving tonal scales and pithy lyrics. At best, Solnicki shows she can dare!

And it’s with lyrics that Solnicki also excels, picking uneasy, scaly messages which can at best be humbly chewed. For instance, in ‘Shades of Scarlett Conquering’, a Joni Mitchell song, we hear the ‘deep complaint’ in her . ‘Mercy Street’, a Peter Gabriel song, offers another melancholy, considering the collaboration on lyrics by Norma Winstone , messages which I personally have difficulty understanding. (I guess I’m a Joni Mitchell fan.} For me, it is a sad song, with added mourning by flautist Johnson; yet sung by Solnicki with perfect emotion and restraint. Of all Gabriel’s other stellar songs, I wonder why Solnicki picked this one…..It is only for us to wonder……

The album concludes with ‘I’ll Remember April’ as we feel Solnicki’s breathy voice with soft vibrato and pleasantly gentle pitch of voice at high ranges. This is what makes this album very listenable, coupled with a playfulness of poetry improvising on sound. She story-tells through whispers. But it’s bassist George Koller, himself an award winner and producer of this album, who choreographs the songs so eloquently along with the singer. Together, with a stellar cast of Canadian musicians all known for their quality, they all made me smile, swoon, gloom a bit, and search for my own shadow……

The Band is composed of: Lara Solnicki – vocals; John Johnson- saxophones, bass clarinet, flute; Mark Kieswetter – piano, rhodes; George Koller – acoustic and electric bass; Ted Quinlan – guitar; Nick Frasier – drums; Lena Allemano – trumpet; Ernie Tollar – bansuri flute; Davide DiRenzo – percussion

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Ear Candy -A Review of Al Jarreau’s “My Old Friend: Celebrating George Duke” by C. Martin

“I took my first voice lesson a month ago,” beamed the 75-year old multi-Grammy Award singer, Al Jarreau. “Yeah, I’m studying voice now! In the rush of things, I had picked up some bad habits in my singing”. Well, I wouldn’t know! This announcement during his press conference preceded his stage appearance the next evening at the recent Cape Town International Jazz Festival held end March 2015. He was also plugging his latest album, “My Old Friend: Celebrating George Duke” which does just that – honours a musical dynasty of invited artists who, together, stamp their own soundprints on the song legacy left by the late Duke who passed on in 2013.

My Old Friend: Celebrating George Duke

My Old Friend: Celebrating George Duke

Read an My Old Friend: Celebrating George Duke excellent interview with Jarreau by Smooth Views about this album’s evolution: http://smoothviews.com/WordPress/?p=1055  and about the signature which producer John Burk puts, as does fellow writer and bassist, Stanley Clarke, on the whole album.

Had the Duke lived to hear his 10 songs on the album, he might have called it ‘ear candy’. There are sweet, some sour, sassy and sarcastic, but always soulful renditions of Duke’s tunes from the artist heavyweights who joined Jarreau.

Although the first song on the album is not a Duke song, “My Old Friend” is appropriate as it commemorates Jarreau’s 50 long years of friendship with Duke. In fact, Jarreau was reminded by Burk that he (Jarreau) was probably the longest collaborator going back to Duke’s Los Angeles days performing in the early 1960’s. In “Churchyheart” (tribute by Duke and Jarreau to Miles Davis’s ‘ Backyard Ritual/Bitches Brew’), there’s a love between fellow collaborator, bassist Marcus Miller, and Jarreau, both who loved Miles, and Miles loved them. You can hear it in the muted trumpet. With lyrics by Jarreau, Miller, who normally is a string bassist, offers a rare bass clarinet duet, or what Jarreau considered marking “some new territories”. Collaborator Stanley Clarke knocked heads together with Jarreau to select the songs having close connections between Duke and Jarreau, such as the bossa/samba song, or “Somebossa” as Jarreau calls it, where George Albright’s melodic saxophone presents this ‘summer breezin’ swing. In “Sweet Baby”, Jarreau’s falsetto pitch comes through nicely, in keeping with the title, matching Lalah Hathaway’s slinky voice. Vocalist Jeffrey Osborne and Jarreau announce “Every Reason to Smile” with a funky pop, like:

livin’ in a one room shack, you know it’s good to look back,

I loved those times so well….that’s how I learned to sing…

 

George Duke with Al Jarreau

George Duke with Al Jarreau

An old classic with Duke on piano and Boney James on tenor saxophone, ‘Bring me Joy’ brings back romantic memories of this past song about another day. Duke’s cousin Dianne Reeves (another multi Grammy award winner) and Jarreau swing into another samba rumble, enhanced by Lenny Castro’s percussion, in ‘Brazilian Love Affair/ Up from the Sea It Rose and Ate Rio in One Swift Bite”’. Characteristically, the song moves into a funky rap scat Jarreau is so noted for. Dr. John rattles his ‘brain salad’ in the last song on this album, ‘You Touch My Brain’ as each instrument skilfully lays out its own phrases like a tossed salad.

As Jarreau said to me during our interviews: “We brought in alot of people to cover his music. We laughed so much doing that record. I thought: ‘George, I’m sorry, I’m having a good time.’” And joyful, it is! So isn’t Jarreau’s aging voice.

The album was released in 2014 by Concord Music Group.

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Serpentine Jazz, a gig and CD Review by Carol Martin

Straight No Chaser, a leading jazz listening club in Cape Town, featured an evening of free flowing improvisation with two unlikely instruments: a tuba and a …. serpent. Two of the European ‘Three Seasons’, pianist Patrick Bebelaar and Michel Godard on tuba and….serpent…., together with our University’s own saxman, Mike Rossi, and electronics percussion guru Ulrich Suesse, offered an evening of pops, whistles, rustles, nature sounds, and human traffic disturbances.

Patrick Babelaar (piano), Mike Rossi (sax), Michel Godard (tuba) at SNC

Patrick Babelaar (piano), Mike Rossi (sax), Michel Godard (tuba) at SNC

At least for me. I sat amused, chuckling out loud, sometimes confused, and almost whimsical as I watched Michel’s tuba-like serpent blow its lower register fantasies into the audience. Not your usual jazz standards. But I loved it, and thank SNC for being the place it’s meant to be: for musicians to feel free to experiment with and present the unusual.

Liking this evening’s musical drama on stage, I bought the Three Seasons’ album, named after them, which includes old-timer master drummer, Gunter ‘Baby’ Sommer. Well, wasn’t this another trip?!     Issued in 2014, “Three Seasons” sparks baroque and romantic classical idioms put to free style improvisation, with touches of India, Arab, and South African influences. I usually listen to an album at least twice before assessing it. But this one put me in a spin right away. If one can listen and discern carefully the difference between the tuba and serpent sounds, then your ears will be well rewarded.

The Serpent held by Michel Godard

A dreamy, muffled solo of the serpent starts this album journey repeating only a few notes, but skilfully and meditatively. When Gunter’s drums break into the next piece, I settle back, thinking I’ll have a nice hour’s meditation session. Hardly! A frenetic tuba awakes in ‘Morning Light’, followed by a thunderous drum and impressive serpent calls and runs in “Three for Jens”. Nine of the 11 songs on this album are compositions of the group. The familiar arises with a most unusual rendition of Cole Porter’s “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” which is when I woke up from my meditative stupor. Completely jolted by my favourite on this album, “Inside Outside Shout”, I realised what entering a sweat lodge for a dose of shamanic self-purging is all about. I was getting purged. Again, the rustling of the serpent kept me spell-bound. Thank goodness, towards the end of this fascinating album, I was finding some resolution, coming out of my hideout with the melodic, mournful, and solemn “Days of Wheeping Delights”, with (I think) a beautiful tuba solo. But, it seems that brass horn serpent has soothed somehow. I just wish I was more aware of it during its live performance at SNC. Oh well, next time…..and there will be one!

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Hiromi Uehara “The Trio Project”: CD REVIEW by Carol Martin

Hiromi Uehara “The Trio Project” - Hiromi Alive

Hiromi Uehara “The Trio Project” – Hiromi Alive

Hiromi Uehara “The Trio Project” – Hiromi Alive

One of the most emotion-evoking pianist magnets I know in our jazz era, 35 year old Japanese impresario Hiromi gives us another ranting, rhythmic, and even romantic album on her “Hiromi Live”. If you listen on [good quality] headphones, you will quickly develop a dizzy adrenaline rush, just on her first song, “Alive”. Her left bass hand is heavy, but lilts into softer, kinder melodic ballads. Even the song titles of this album explain Hiromi’s progression on life. “Dreamer” is the most beautiful on the album, spinning the listener into a trance-like meditation. “Seeker” has an easy bluesy swing with a tinge of funk and humour.

But it’s her drummer, Simon Phillips, who fills all the stereophonic spaces with various drum rolls, taps, rumbles, and pulses. Your head reels now. In fact, he makes this album. Drums tend to dominate amongst Hiromi’s piano runs, but stay true to the focus of the album, to be alive!
Hiromi’s right hand runs, although some of the fastest I’ve ever heard, manage to lessen the stress. In “Wanderer” she moves from a walk to a bebop swing. In “Player”, double bassist, Anthony Jackson, comes alive with another bebop saunter, walking along with improvising keys. Likewise, “warrior” hits a nerve of competition and struggle as part of life’s expectation. It’s an energetic piece, again thanks to the drums’ variety of rhythms. We finally start to mellow as life matures in the melodic and soft “Firefly”, and resolves into a beautiful gospel spell in “Spirit”. Its tune lingers with the electric bass soloing, almost mournfully.

After bouncy and lilting refrains, moving towards a spiritual resolution, “Life Goes On” jolts one into an upbeat, funky swing, reminding us that nothing really comes to an end. Life IS a dizzying journey – Hiromi has a style all her own. This is a must-listen-to album if you can hold on long enough. See her video of the “Alive” song on http://www.hiromimusic.com/ taken during the studio recording. Awesome stuff!

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Thandi Ntuli’s “The Offering”: CD REVIEW by Carol Martin

Thandi Ntuli The Offering

Thandi Ntuli's The Offering

Thandi Ntuli’s The Offering

Another South African songbird, crisp voice along with her articulate piano improvs, Thandi Ntuli passes with high marks on her debut album, The Offering. It’s been nominated for this year’s Metro FM award for Urban Jazz. For being a debut artist, she has made the daring move to produce and release her album independently of promoters, thanks to careful savings from concerts and launches in 2014. As she told one reviewer: “Releasing independently has meant I don’t have the same structures that an established record label offers its artists.” Artists in the album are talented award-winners: Sisonke Xonti (tenor saxophone), Mthunzi Mvubu (alto saxophone), Keenen Ahrends (guitar), Sphelelo Mazibuko (drums), Benjamin Jephta (double dass) and Spha Mdlalose (lead vocals). It also features a veteran of the music industry, trumpeter Marcus Wyatt.

The Offering is dedicated to a late sister who died before one of Ntuli’s grand concerts, and to her grandmother, both whom were great influences in her life. At age 27 years, and a graduate of UCT’s Jazz Studies, Ntuli is not only a technical clinician at the piano (since age 4), but a soulful improviser with the aural likes of a Bheki Mseleku, using chord structures, melodies, and rhythms characteristic of spirituals, South African gospel, Afro-jazz, and American bebop. Quite an exciting melt for lovers of different jazz genres. Tinkling gospel-ish piano refrains in ‘Contemplation’, with riveting double bass solos by Jephta, and creative interpretations of rhythms all make for a gem of a song. “Um(thanda)zo’ shows off Ntuli’s lilting scatting voice accompanied by Keenan’s guitar runs. A stunning song. Wyatt’s well-known muted trumpet shines in ‘H.T.’ and ‘201 AA’. In ‘Sangare’, one hears lead vocals of another songbird, Spha, her voice following the harmonies of her team. ‘Love Remembers’ contains a lyrical sadness, thoughtfully embraced by Wyatt’s horn.

Thandi Ntuli has, indeed, offered herself to our world, and we are more blessed for that!

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Estelle Kokot’s album, “Information”, released in 2006

CD Review by Carol Martin

Carol Martin

Carol Martin

This album by this South African singer, songwriter, arranger and pianist, gives highs and lows, ups and downs of life, with bumpy beats, ballads, and that hard to get ‘balance’. Her repertoire contains songs which, at times, are joyful; others mournful, “I Don’t Know You Anymore”. Released in 2006, “Information” appears to do just that: inform us about who she is. Tracks were co-written by UK-based producer/songwriter Craigie Dodds and recorded in London at Sphere Studios and Eastcote Studios.

Estelle Kokot's Information.jpeg

Estelle Kokot’s Information.jpeg

“Where is the Rainbow” sets the stage of this moody album, querying reality. This is followed by an Arab-influenced beat and whispers of “I Scare Myself” which can leave your already haunted. The album lightens up with a swinging “Sling Me a Shot”. “Russ” is sassy about ‘putting the lion down’. Her twisty improv on “Round Minute” displays her seriously tempered voice, backed by an equally balanced trio. “Paradise”, perhaps meant to be cynical, doesn’t seem to come across like that. Her tempo varies nicely between songs, and her ending “Titanium” with solo piano backed by an eerie synthesizer reminds one of how to take our heavy life slowly, and methodically.

Estelle KokotIn her other UK-based life, Estelle works with young artists, facilitating their connections in the music industry amongst promoters and event organisers. She’s also one of the first women to have performed at Kippies Jazz Club at the Market Theatre Newtown, in the mid-1980’s.

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Ezra Weiss Sextet “Before You Know It” Reviewed by Carol Martin

Ezra Weiss Sextet “Before You Know It”This is the first of young Weiss’s 7 albums that he chose to record live at a Portland, Oregon, club in order to offer the listener” live energy”. Hailed by Downbeat and others as being a unique composer/arranger, along with his renowned musicians, and influenced by Shirley Horn and Maria Schneider in his arrangements, pianist Weiss excels in swing, improve, and ballads. One hears influences from Horace Silver and Art Blakey, also.

“The Five A.M. Strut” exemplifies his funky attitude as saxophonist John Nastos stretches the song over 15 minutes. It’s a strut, indeed! “Don’t Need No Ticket” slows to a ballad reminiscent of John Coltrane whose other tune, “Alabama”, a tribute to the 1963 bombings in Birmingham, is rearranged to mark a need for healing after the 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. “Before You Know It” with its gospel feel, was written for his not-yet-born son. Its lilting ballade turns funky, and again, fun.

Weiss’s musical choices and presentations are powerfully moving, as is this live album, released last September on Roark Records label.

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Beat Funktion “Mandy’s Secret” Reviewed by Carol Martin 

Beat Funktion Mandy’s Secret

Beat Funktion Mandy’s Secret

This is an jazz-funk all-Swedish group giving tribute to the 1970s funk, groove, soul, disco, and afro-beat. Jazz pianist, composer, arranger, and producer Daniel Lantz leads the way, and keeps the dancing shoes clicking. The band merges commercial genres into a type of improvisation that appeals to a wide and diverse section of listeners – from the older to the younger. Although ensconced in more improvisational jazz, Lantz wanted to break away a bit, and move his original ten compositions on this album towards more pop and rock, using synthesizers and psychedelic sounds, along with Lantz’s funky fender Rhodes. Mandy’s Secret is the band’s third album, released this past September 2014. It has already hit high on USA charts!

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Eliana Cuevas  “Espejo” (which means ‘mirror’) Reviewed by Carol Martin

Eliana Cuevas Espejo

Eliana Cuevas Espejo

This is the fourth recording from Venezuelan-born and Toronto-based vocalist, Eliana Cuevas, which is both seductive and tender. Her interviews suggest that she likes to push limits of Latin music; she changes moods from the bouncy first track, “Estrellita” to the sultry, slow ‘Lamento’, to the sensual “En Un Pedacito De Tu Corazon”, to the jazzy swing of “Agua Cangrejo Y Sal”.  The album features an array of 20 musicians from Latin/South America and Canada, and mixtures of instruments, such as the mandolin and the melodic. Voice-overs add melodic seduction.  This is a fun album with all sorts of rhythms and textures. It does mirror the range of possibilities for creative talk, which she offers quite skilfully. The album was released last August by Alma Records, and in June, won the U.S. Best Latin Album at the Independent Music Awards.

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Tumi Mogorosi’s Project ELO by Mamsie Ntshangase, chairperson of EJazz Appreciation Society

Tumi Mogorosi’s Project ELO 

Tumi Mogorosi’s Project ELO

I have this habit of dozing off after a hard day’s work while the music is playing from one of the playlists I prepare. It happened that the other day I woke up to this most exquisite sound of voices that made me think I was dreaming of heaven or being in some cathedral. From the first note, you are struck by the voices that accompany the booming bass and the drum, elegantly keeping time. By the time the saxophone and guitar entered the “fray”, I knew then that I was on some “celestial journey” through sound…mentally in orbit to somewhere in outer space. This is how I got introduced to Tumi Mogorosi’s “Project ELO”. I took deep breaths, allowed the music in, and boy, did it get under my skin. The tune was “In The Beginning”. How apt. This is Tumi, creating a world through music that his chosen will inhabit.

The musicians are the main man himself on drums, Thembinkosi Mavimbela on double bass, Sibusile Xaba (guitar), Nhlanhla Mahlangu (tenor sax), Mthunzi Mvubu (alto sax) and Malcolm Jiyane (trombone). The inclusion of the “celestial voices” of Themba Maseko, Ntombi Sibeko, Mary Moyo and Gabisile Motuba is a masterstroke. The album itself is produced by Tumi himself and the soon-to-be-legend, pianist Nduduzo Makhathini whose body of work already has tongues wagging from here to all corners of the earth. This is no exaggeration.

Tumi Mogorosi with sticksOn to “Inner Emergence”, and what I now call the “celestial voices” carry on opening “clouds” and “bringing in the light”. The guitar solo by Sibusile Xaba, plus trombone play by Malcolm Jiyane are especially haunting. Tumi on drums the ever present director of proceedings. Make no mistake, this is very much this amazing drummer’s album. The percussive sounds are very much the core, as it soars to the heavens, there’s the gravity of the earthly drum that centres it. The young maestro delivers something masterful.

“Princess Gabi” starts with Thembinkosi Mavimbela’s bass slowing my breathing down even further, with Malcolm Jiyane’s trombone has me hypnotized. The voices and the wailing saxophone wake me up from the delicious stupor I’ve been slipping into, such a glorious mesh of voices, Tumi’s drumming, Mthunzi Mvubu’s and Nhlanhla Mahlangu’s horns and young Jiyane’s trombone. It’s almost as if that chorus is paying homage to the Princess – the effect is too exquisite.
“Slaves Emancipation” brings me “down to earth”. Images of years of struggle and hardship play in my head as I listen and feel like I’m one with the oppressed ones experiencing the freedom they’ve been craving probably for hundreds of years. Thembinkosi Mavimbela’s booming contrabass (which he plays with amazing dexterity, you could swear he’s holding it as one would an electric bass guitar) shines through beautifully.

Tumi Mogorosi ponderingOn “Thokozile Queen Mother”, Mavimbela’s bass kicks off slowly, Tumi keeping steady time and Mthunzi’s alto sax and then that angelic voice singing the praises of the Queen Mother. It is clear that Tumi is concerned with the universe, and how everything connects. I get the sense that these are the things that influenced the creation of these beautiful compositions.

“Metatron Angel of Presence” is where Mogorosi stretches out and showcases his prowess on the instrument of his choice, the drums. I couldn’t help but think that the legend Louis Moholo would listen to this, nod his head and smile.
The set ends with a triumphant “Gift of Three”, where my now favourite celestial voices, bass and horns combine with Tumi to present something that makes this heart of mine soar.

The musicians assembled here complement and play off each other so beautifully, making it one of those albums that will endure for all time.

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Kyle Shepherd Trio’s album “Dream State”, featuring guest artist Buddy Wells.

Carol Martin

Reviewed by Carol Martin

This CD from Sheer Sound has again brought its main artist, pianist Kyle Shepherd, closer to the edge of innovative, spiritually-influenced compositions that are ever evolving during his still young musical journey. ‘Dream State’ boasts two discs of 21 songs, all composed by this 2014 Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year for Jazz. Kyle loves to quote from the late saxophonist and mentor, Zim Ngqawana, “The music must lead us towards ourselves.

Kyle Shepherd's Dream State

Kyle Shepherd’s Dream State

” This trio featuring drummer Jonno Sweetman, and double bassist Shane Cooper (with awards-most recently from SAMRO who bestowed his debut “Oscillations” album as best Jazz album of 2014), celebrate their remarkable five years together. Another CapeTownian, the popular tenor saxman Buddy Wells, features handsomely where the ghoema sounds swing their magic.

There is nothing staid in these albums; just when you identify with the familiar, the trio takes our mind on another journey of sometimes discordant, sometimes healing sounds, changing chord structures, and erratic rhythms. The songs evoke, jostle, steer, and placate. Out of discomfort comes a peace. Just listen meditatively, feel the flow, be patient, and then arrive at a state of oneness, of balance, having been tunefully connected – as the band is connected with each other in superb synchronicity. This is what ‘Dream State’ portrays. Kyle refers to advice from Abdullah Ibrahim, another mentor: “Abdullah said create music significant to YOU. Then if people are moved by the music, that’s all I ask for. It just takes hard work and introspection. “ How so!

Kyle Shepherd

Kyle Shepherd

For those who want to cut straight to the Cape ghoema rhythms and familiar melodies, several tracks will welcome you: In Disc 1: “Xamissa”, “Our House, Our Rules”, and “Siqhagamshelane Sonke” with its 1-3-4 chords and Buddy’s sax. In Disc 2: “Xahuri”.

For the meditative and more ethereal ballads, try in Disc 1: “Transcendence” with Buddy’s prayerful sax solo, and “The Seeker” which speaks for itself. In Disc 2: “The Painter”, “Fatherless”, and “Rock Art”.

Jonno’s drums always complement without dominating. Kyle’s one note drill in several tracks sets what might appear as a monotonous pace until he matches this foundation with chords which swing into his usual Cape jive, while the drums and bass get equally excited with this conversation. Listen carefully to ‘Re-invention’. It’s faultless.

DISC 1
This disc starts out with a very uncharacteristic Shepherd melody in “Zikr City – Desert Monk” in a minor key; yet it moves whimsically through what sounds like cityscapes and bustle; then into a quiet peace of a void – a soundless desert. ‘Family Love’ holds a special liking to my ears – Buddy’s tenor sax melodically takes one on a saunter on a cloudy day through the park, and breaks into a Cape jive of celebration. “Flying without Leaving the Ground” offers a chatty bass solo with an uncertain piano. The bass keeps you grounded and keeps you there during the subsequent crescendos of the piano and drums as you gradually experience a spiritual liftoff. This is appropriately followed by “Transcendence”. Nirvana is somehow near….but not quite…..

Jonno Sweetman

Jonno Sweetman

DISC 2
If you haven’t left the ground yet, the second disc starts out with an ominous directive, almost funereal, about what appears to me to be stray bullets flying about the Cape Flats. Appropriately titled, “Cape Flats”, the underlying rumblings from Shane’s double bass and Jonno’s larger drums, and slowly paced piano chords suggest discomfort about hidden realities faced by dwellers. This shifts from [maybe] an out-of-harms’-way feeling into the next piece, “Black Star, Unsung Hero”, almost as though a young lad or lass managed to escape those bullets and rise above the violence to effect peaceful surprises on all. This is one of the more hauntingly beautiful songs of the album.

The placement of songs on the disc cleverly conveys the merging of themes. After a serious and unnerving dialogue about “Rituals”, where Shane’s bass cleverly mimics Kyle’s left hand walk-abouts, the listener finds relief with “The Painter” with Buddy’s melodic sax and an almost rock-ish roll from the drums. I see color and texture evolve, resting the eyes, yet tickling with aural fantasies. It’s for Melissa.

South African Bass player, composer, band leader, recording artist

Shane Cooper

But just after settling back into a meditative pose, “Doekom” startles with a frantic, atonal whine of confusion. I found this the least pleasant song on the track, probably because of its heavy left hand, again warning of the ominous. Indeed, was it a “Muslim witch doctor’s” prescription for protection from gangsterous earthlings? One wonders whether the doekom was protective or murderous, a karmic magic potion or….just some profound spiritual realism? An impressive bass keeps up a scary pace.

The way Kyle breaks up chords harmonically allows one to anticipate and sing along, while not knowing the song! And even if the song seems uncomfortable, it ends up on a cheerful resolution. I smile. A characteristic Kyle ‘selfie’ seems to be heard in “Fatherless”, perhaps a bit autobiographical, with clear chordal statements.

“Senegal” has a jumpy, Arab flavour of minor chords. I picture impressive derbies of horses in colourful regalia kicking up dust. This is followed by “Rock Art”, another mercurial but melodic piece, in memory of the indigenous peoples of South Africa. It suggests we meditate on the land’s ancestral wisdom.

The final track,”Ahimsa”, if you managed to get through the previous 20 without exhaustion, is a beautifully crafted tribute to two gurus for peace – Gandhi and Mandela. It is a befitting closure to the ‘Dream State’ as well.

Kyle, Jonno and Shane

Kyle, Jonno and Shane

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Claude Cozens Trio’s Jubilee Jam with Kyle Shepherd, piano and Benjamin Jephta, bass. Reviewed by Carol Martin

Claude Cozens Jubilee Jam copy

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.

Claude Cozens drimes 2

Claude Cozens at the office

 

“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!!

 

Benjamin Jephta

Benjamin Jephta

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.

Darren English

“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!

Kyle Shepherda

Kyle Shepherd

 

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…….?

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Kyle Shepherd Trio Dream State CD Cape Town Launch

Kyle Shepherd Header The Cape Town launch concert of the Kyle Shepherd Trio’s Double Album ‘Dream State’ will happen on Friday 29 August 2014 at UCT’s SA College of Music. The launch of ‘Dream State’ marks the 5-year Anniversary of Shepherd’s much-lauded Trio. The concert, presented by fineART Music and generously sponsored by Ultra Event Technical Solutions and Dunstone Wines features Shepherd, the 2014 Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year Award (SBYA) winner for Jazz and African News Network, ANN7’s 2014 Young South African of the Year Award Nominee, on piano, together with two of South Africa’s most celebrated musicians, namely, Shane Cooper – the 2013 SBYA recipient – on double bass and Jonno Sweetman on drums.

 

Kyle Shepherd's Dream State

Kyle Shepherd’s Dream State

‘Dream State’, a 21-track double disc album of Shepherd’s original compositions, features Shepherd on piano, Shane Cooper on double bass and Jonno Sweetman on drums. The pre-eminent SA saxophonist, Buddy Wells, features on five of the tracks. In this studio recording, the Trio, rather magnificently captures the fluidity, intensity and inventiveness of its live performances that has entranced audiences across South Africa and abroad. View the Official ‘Dream State’ EPK Video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtOj4D_ZUaw

In her review of the official launch concert held at the Wits Great Hall in Johannesburg on 26 July 2014, revered Jazz music journalist, author and historian, Gwen Ansell, wrote in Business Day that “Repeat listening to the same material on record underlines what a distinctive voice Shepherd now has. Those fragments of musical home that have always characterised his compositions and playing are still there; the reworkings, though, are often unexpected and subtle, emerging from a modern and personal pianism that isn’t in anybody’s shadow. Dream State joins an impressive 2014 list of albums of the year.” In the album’s liner notes, renowned arts journalist, Percy Mabandu succinctly described the ethos of the trio in this way: “There’s a palpable connectedness they share as players, a connection that also touches attuned audiences at their live performances too. This band is on a search for more than beautiful notes. They are asking more of the music. Its corporeal and ethereal aspects are invoked into the simultaneous sound ritual. Each performance takes on the nature of a meditation and as Zim Ngqawana said, ‘the music must lead us towards ourselves’. ”

Kyle-Shepherd-1-320x200‘Dream State’ which was recorded by Peter Auret at the Sumo Sound Recording Studio, mixed by Pål Svenre (Sweden) and mastered by Tim Lengfeld at TL Mastering, is the 27-year old pianist’s 4th Album. His previous critically acclaimed releases, ‘fineART’, ‘A Portrait of Home’ and South African History !X, have all garnered South African Music Award nominations. Since the release of his debut album in 2009, Shepherd’s international career has advanced remarkably with performances, either as a solo pianist or trio, quartet and other formats in France, Switzerland, Germany, Japan, Denmark, South Africa at The Cape Town International Jazz Festival and The Joy of Jazz Festival, Zimbabwe at The Harare International Festival – HIFA, China and India. The twenty-seven year old virtuoso pianist will embark on a Solo Piano Tour of Japan in September 2014 which will include a performance at the prestigious Tokyo International Jazz Festival, Japan on Sunday, 07 September 2014; after which he heads for the USA with Kesivan & The Lights for a show at Carnegie Hall, New York on the 30th of October 2014. The Kyle Shepherd Trio is billed to play at The Standard Bank Joy of Jazz Festival, Sandton, on 27 September 2014.

Copies of the new CD will be on sale at the launch concert and will be also be available at most major retail stores in South Africa and downloadable via all major digital platforms worldwide, during August 2014. Poster & CD Artwork & Design by Brandan Reynolds. Attached photograph by Ference Isaacs.

CONCERT INFO: – Date: Friday, 29 August 2014 – Time: 20:30 – Duration: 80 min (one set only) – Venue: UCT, SA College of Music (behind the Baxter Theatre), Lower Campus, off Woolsack Drive, Rondebosch, Cape Town.

RESERVATIONS: Pre-Book & Pay Online at QUICKET http://www.quicket.co.za/events/6102-kyle-shepherd-trio-39dream-state39-cd-launch-in-cape-town

and only pay R90.00*! * Quicket adds a service fee of R3.90 to each ticket (capped at R10 per transaction) OR To Book and Pay R100.00 entry fee in CASH at Door please visit the Booking Form at www.kyleshepherd.co.za/?page_id=614

OR Call 072 351 5204! [Seating Unreserved]

ENQUIRIES: All enquiries including biography, interview requests, high resolution images: Theo. Lawrence (fineART Music): Mobile 072 351 5204, E-mail: fineartmusic@gmail.com

or via www.kyleshepherd.co.za

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Dan Shout In With a Shout

Dan Shout In With a ShoutIt has become something of an event when Dan Shout releases a new album, he has proven to be a consummate professional and leave little to chance, with that said I missed the launch due to illness at the time, very sadly. With a quick glance at the track listing I thought, hello, hello what’s up here three tracks from his debut solo album Greetings & Salutations and thought should I feel a we bit cheated, but guess what I reserved judgment till I’d listened to the entire album. No there was no cheating by just adding the three tracks to fill space on the new album. The three tracks, Etosha, Big B, Tea With Alvin were each spruced up and given a totally new treatment, beautifully re-arranged and executed. Really nice one Dan. I guess I’m not used to Safro Jazz musicians redoing their own compositions so soon after their initial album releases, mind you those tunes were from back around 2010. The new tracks on the album are a joy to listen to and the young Mr Shout is proving to be a really outstanding composer of excellent music. He has certainly raised his own bar with In with A Shout and though very early days as yet, I am already looking forward to the next album from his talented mind and nimble fingers. The band he has put together is outstanding and they each executed their tasks perfectly throughout this outstanding album. It is a must have for any good music lover to have in their album collection.

Musicians:

Dan Shout, Marc de Kock, Sisonke Xonti (saxes), Gorm Helfjord (guitar), Andrew Ford (piano), Benjamin Jeptha (bass), Marlon Witbooi (drums) Daniel Bloem (perc)

Tracklisting:

Escape from Freedom, Hanepoot, Etosha from Greetings and Salutations,         For Big B from Greetings and Salutations, Justa Bitta Banter, Heavy Days, Tea With Alvin from Greetings and Salutations, Elephant Encounters

Label: Own Release

Dan Shout blowing up a storm

Dan Shout blowing up a storm

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Christine Kamau This Is For You

Christine Kamau – This Is For You – 2012

Miles?

Miles?

Although we’ve been playing this album for quite a while I feel we do need to relook at it, as it’s not yet been reviewed.

Christine Kamau is a songwriter, bandleader and jazz musician from Kenya. Her music style can best be described as easy listening Afro-jazz. One will hear a strong influence from South Africa in her music as she sites Bra Hugh Masekela as one of her major musical influences.

Christine Kamau

Christine Kamau

She talented and dedicated, this album showcases that in the best way. Good music it is. I don’t have any favourites, as all tracks are a pleasure to listen to. Her band also contributes to the success of the album, showing more great jazz talent fro Kenya. I hope she has a new album coming soon as I would like more from her. This Is For You is a worthy addition to the CD collection.

Musicians:

Christine Kamau (Trumpet & Sax), Isaac Khakula (bass guitar), Ken Simiyu (keyboard), Daniel Macharia (drums), Emmanuel Kute (flute, alto saxophone), Matthew Makumi (guitar)

Tracklisting:

African People, This Is for You, Nakuru Sunshine, Conversations, Ulisema, Do What You Want, It’s a Wrap!, Baba Afrika!

Label: Own ReleaseChristine Kamau straight ahead

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Al Jarreau My Old Friend Celebrating George Duke

Al Jarreau - My Old Friend Celebrating George Duke -

Al Jarreau – My Old Friend Celebrating George Duke –

In 2013 we lost legendary keyboardist, composer and producer George Duke and this is a worthy tribute by an old friend namely Al Jarreau. The friendship started way back in 1965 when Al moved to San Francisco and was working as a social worker and a rehabilitation counselor. At a jam session at the Half Note, Jarreau impressed the owner and was asked if he would join the young George Dukes Trio and naturally he jumped at the chance, and the rest is history cementing a life long friendship.

Jarreau said “We played together three years at that club; it closed in 1968 and George and I moved on. But that was a very important period for me”.

al jarreau george dukeAl went on to say, “There are great moments all over this project, I couldn’t possibly cover George’s full range. But I wanted to give people a fun listen with his music for Duke’s diehard fans to once again, enjoy themselves through his music.”

As a life long Jarreau fan I love the album, I mean who wouldn’t just look at the line up featured on the album. My mind goes back to that day at the old Green Point stadium when he visited South Africa a real rainy night in Cape Town which did not dampen Jarreau’s spirit as he lifted the audience into a frenzy of joyful happiness. What a night it was.

The album released on August 5, 2014 has received wide acclaim world wide and will also extend George Dukes legacy and is a must have for Al Jarreau and George Duke fans, with that said it will also bring new fans to these two artists.

Musicians: Al Jarreau, bassist Stanley Clarke, keyboardists John Beasley, Patrice Rushen, guitarist Paul Jackson, Jr., drummer John “J.R.” Robinson-Gerald Albright, Lalah Hathaway, Jeffrey Osborne, Dianne Reeves

Photo by Tanja Deuss

Photo by Tanja Deuss

Tracklisting:

My Old Friend See All 3 with Gerald Albright, Someday with Dianne Reeves, Churchyheart (Backyard Ritual) with Marcus Miller, Somebossa (Summer Breezin’) with Gerald Albright, Sweet Baby with Lalah Hathaway, Every Reason to Smile/Wings of Love with Jeffrey Osborne, No Rhyme, No Reason with Kelly Price, Bring Me Joy with Boney James, George Duke, Brazilian Love Affair/Up from the Sea/It Arose and Ate Rio in One Swift Bite with Dianne Reeves, You Touch My Brain with Dr. John

Label: Concord Records

For more info go to http://www.aljarreau.com

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Claude Cozens Trio Jubilee Jam

Claude Cozens Drums

The Claude Cozens Trio – Jubilee Jam – 2014

 I was blown away at the launch of Claude Cozens debut album and those memories linger in the minds eye as I listen to the full album, months after that delightful night at Straight No Chaser in Cape Town. The trio made up of Kyle Shepherd aCozens leading from behind the drum kit controls the Benjamin Jephtatightknit trio with the exceptional Kyle Shepherd playing keyboards and piano and remarkable Benjamin Jephta playing bass.

I met Claude who had just finished his schooling and was starting his jazz degree at UCT. I was truly impressed with his solid determination of forging a career in the difficult world of jazz in Africa. Following his pursuit over the years, as I am want to do whenever I bumped into him, enquired how his CD was coming along, his stock answer was, it’s coming. The years rolled on by and then one day I received the phone call from Claude asking if he could come by the All Jazz Radio Studio. Duly he arrived and proudly presented me with a copy of Jubilee Jam with a beaming smile he said, “See, I told you all the time it was coming, now here it is, enjoy” As I was on air at the time I slapped it into the CD player and launched into a wonderful interview with the talented young drummer/bandleader. The rest is history, Claude Cozens; bandleader, composer and jazz musician is on his way to a bright future in the fickle world of jazz. Now the global village’s stages await his assent on the ladder of success.

Not being a musician I cannot launch into the technicalities of the music, all I can say is what a joy the album is I can find little fault with the music contained given the highly talented musicians featured on the album who jelled together so well. This is Claude’s story with each track taking one on his life’s journey through each of the 14 tracks, a story very well told and a worthy addition to ones jazz collection. The Cape Jazz heritage continues to forge ahead, the way is clear for the world to see that South African jazz has a rightful place in the lexicon of great music. I can’t wait for the next chapter of this remarkably humble and respectful young South African jazz musician’s life. Get a copy, this is history in the making. I love it.

Musicians: Claude Cozens, drums with Kyle Shepherd, keyboards and Benjamin Jephta IV, electric bass

Tracklisting:

Fynbos Spirits, 13 Corfu Avenue, Jubilee jam, Electric Street, Platkop, Song For Peninah, Baden Powell, Love Stain, Hangberg Mountain Jazz, Brother Boesack, Mr English, Overflow, Cape Lion, Landing Place

 Label: Own Release

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Jazz Reviews: The Laura Nyro Project Mark Winkler – By Christopher Loudon — Jazz Articles

Mark Winkler - The Laura Nyro Project

Mark Winkler – The Laura Nyro Project

When Mark Winkler, a quintessentially West Coast swinger, filled an album with Bobby Troup tunes a decade ago, it was a blissful marriage of hipster sensibilities. Winkler and Laura Nyro seem stranger bedfellows—California cool meets East Coast boho—yet Winkler, a gifted writer himself, makes the union work equally well. Nor was Nyro all dark-basement angst. Less hard-edged than such contemporaries as Dylan and Paul Simon, she, like Joni Mitchell, tended to float beyond category, blending a heady potpourri of folk, pop, jazz and show tunes. When that crazy mélange is filtered through Winkler’s laidback aesthetic, the results are quite magical.

Winkler draws exclusively from Nyro’s first four albums, spanning the years 1967 through 1970, when many of the songs became best known via Top 40 cover versions from the likes of Blood, Sweat and Tears and the Fifth Dimension. Ably supported by a shifting cast that includes pianists Eli Brueggemann and Eric Reed and guitarist Larry Koonse, all of whom also contribute arrangements, he follows the lead of those long-ago pop groups by making each of these 11 tunes distinctly his own. So, “Time and Love” is reinterpreted as a dreamy ballad; “He’s a Runner” emerges as an intensely personal tale of betrayal; the wine-steeped “Sweet Blindness” erupts as a riotous party worthy of Louis Prima; and the jaunty post-Kennedy politics of “Save the Country” become a salve for various postmillennial malaises.

via Jazz Reviews: The Laura Nyro Project Mark Winkler – By Christopher Loudon — Jazz Articles.

 

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Jazz Articles: Dave Douglas to Release New Album, ‘Time Travel,’ on April 9 – By Jeff Tamarkin — Jazz Articles

Trumpeter/composer Dave Douglas will follow last year’s Be Still with an all-instrumental collection, Time Travel, due April 9 from Douglas’ Greenleaf Music. The recording features saxophonist Jon Irabagon, pianist Matt Mitchell, bassist Linda Oh and drummer Rudy Royston. The album was engineered by Joe Ferla.

Dave Douglas & Keystone at Undead Jazzfest 2010 Greg Aiello

Dave Douglas & Keystone at Undead Jazzfest 2010
Greg Aiello

Douglas will also launch a tour with the intention of performing in all 50 states, to coincide with his 50th birthday. Initital dates are below

Tour Dates

February 15: Austin, TX – University of Texas Austin – Bass Concert Hall *

February 22: Elmhurst, IL – Elmhurst College – Hammerschmidt Memorial Chapel

March 3: Manzoni, Italy – Teatro Manzoni

March 6: Rome, Italy – Auditorium Parco della Musica ^

March 28 – 31: New York, NY – Jazz Standard (50th Birthday Week)

April 4: Laramie, WY – University of Wyoming

April 5: Boulder, CO – University of Colorado at Boulder

April 11 – 12: Denver, CO – Dazzle Jazz Club

April 25: Reno, NV – Reno Jazz Festival

May 4: Cheltenham, UK – Cheltenham Jazz Festival

May 17: Chicago, IL – Jazz Showcase †

May 30: Brooklyn, NY – Shapeshifter Lab

May 31: New Haven, CT – Firehouse 12

June 3: Burlington, VT – Flynn Center

All dates are with Dave Douglas Quintet unless otherwise noted.

* = Dave Douglas/Joe Lovano & Sound Prints Band feat. Lawrence Fields, Linda Oh & Joey Baron

^ = with Rome Auditorium Jazz Orchestra

† = with Columbia College Jazz Ensemble

via Jazz Articles: Dave Douglas to Release New Album, ‘Time Travel,’ on April 9 – By Jeff Tamarkin — Jazz Articles.

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Distant Borders Revisited by Glen Helgeson & Axis Mundi

Distant Borders Revisited by Glen Helgeson & Axis Mundi

Distant Borders Revisited by Glen Helgeson & Axis Mundi

Reviewed by Eric Alan on 2009-03-03
Year Released: 2006
Recording Company: World View Music
Website: http://www.glenhelgeson.com/

Review

A superb worldly mix of music that allows ones imagination fly to exotic places one has never been to before. Glen Helgerson is a new guitarist, composer and bandleader and to me and a truly pleasant surprise its been discovering his music, somewhat akin to our very own Tananas Orchestra Mundo.

Right for the opening tack African Song, one becomes captivated by this alluring musical tour, one truly see’s it with ones own ears. It is a sophisticated set of tunes that seizes the soul of the listener and transposes time to the back of one mind offering an escape from the humdrum of daily life. We travel to exotic Africa, the Middle East, Cuba, Haiti and various Latin destinations. We enjoy the rich rhythms of those far-flung places that seep into one’s psyche. The smooth fusion of the sounds makes this a very desirable album in one’s CD Shuttle.

The astute mix of variety of drums and other instruments assists with the journey into the music of Glen Helgeson, using various finger picked instruments, including the sitar and harp guitars he enhances the heady atmosphere of the well-rounded sound that makes up the album Distant Borders Revisited.

Record Company Website: http://www.worldviewmusic.com
World Wide Distribution: http://www.worldviewmusic.com
Purchase on the Web: http://cdbaby.com/cd/glenhelgeson2

Track Listings

African Song: Smooth Wes; The Mambo Told Me; Red Moon; A Wedding On Venus: Latin a la Linda; Room 231; River East; …If This; Sweet Ears; The Whirl; Southern Exposure.

Musicians

Glen Helgeson: acoustic, electric, harp and sitar guitars; Peter Oshoushko: mandolin (5, 6, 8); Dean Magraw: guitar (2, 4, 10); Gary Schultz: violin (1, 3, 4, 11); Dave Stanoch: drums (1, 2, 3, 4, 11); Charles Fletcher: bass (1, 2, 3, 4, 11); Michael Bissonette: udu drums, congas, timbales, djembe (1, 3, 4, 11); Marc Anderson: berimbau, congas, doumbek, tabla, frame drum; Enrique Toussaint: bass (7, 8, 10, 12); Tim O’Keefe: riq, doumbek; Gordy Johnson: bass (6); Keni Holman: clarinet (5); Lee Blaske: keyboards (12); Tony Axtel: keyboards (2); Debbie Duncan vocals (7, 12)

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