Album Reviews

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

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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The Search Within by Sean Jones

The Search Within by Sean Jones

The Search Within by Sean Jones

Reviewed by Eric Alan on 2009-03-03
Year Released: 2009
Recording Company: Mack Avenue
Website: http://www.seanjonesmusic.com/

Review

Since Sean Jones’ debut on the Mack Avenue label, he has gone from strength to strength and has grown to be one of the genre’s top trumpet players and bandleaders. When I popped the advance copy of the album into CD player, I could not stop listening and played it repeatedly, it is due for worldwide release towards the end of March 2009.

The album is a journey of introspection for Jones who looks back on his career, to quote, “This is a journey inside my soul that’s taken place over the past 10 years.” He say’s. “It’s an assessment of where I am in the present as well as how I’ve learned from my mistakes and triumphs as a way of looking into the future.” Jones continues. “This album goes very deep for me. It’s a spiritual and sonic journey for me.”

It is a pleasing and easy album to listen to and enjoy, the backing band is outstanding and his guest performers deliver the goods. A couple of tracks that caught my attention is The Ambitious Violet and The Storm are two tunes Jones wrote, inspired by poet/philosopher Khalil Gibran. The Ambitious Violet he say’s, “It’s about how you’d rather spend one day as a towering rose than all your days as a violet,” Jones goes on to explain. “It’s about wanting more. That’s part of my story—coming from a small town but wanting more, whatever it takes.”

I enjoyed Gregoire Maret’s harmonica solo on Life Cycles is fantastic, Jones’s mellifluous flugel horn highlights the compositional beauty of this Latin tinged ballad. Having met Maret and seen him perform with both Herbie Hancock and Marcus Miller a few years ago. The man has taken the mantel of Toots Thielemans and is going on to great things in the future.

The young star takes his career to new heights with The Search Within and shows he is a composer of compassion and strength, something many older contemporaries have taken years to accomplish. The Search Within is an album that has found pride of place in my collection.

Track Listings

The Search Within (Interlude); Transitions; The Ambitious Violet; Life Cycles; The Storm; Letter of Resignation; The Search Within (For Less); Summer’s Spring; Sunday Reflections; Sean’s Jones Comes Down; Love’s Lullaby; The Search Within (Postlude); The Search Within (Bonus Track)

Musicians

Sean Jones, Trumpet; Orrin Evans, piano and Fender Rhodes; Brian Hogans, alto saxophone; Walter Smith tenor saxophone; Luques Curtis, bass; Obed Calvaire, drums
Special guests: Gregoire Maret, harmonica; Erika Von Kleist, flute; Kahlil Bell, percussion; Carolyn Perteete, vocals

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Moreira Chonguica Citizen of the World Vol 2 The Moreira Project

Citizen of the World - Vol 2 The Moreira Project - Moreira Chonguica

Citizen of the World – Vol 2 The Moreira Project – Moreira Chonguica

Reviewed by Eric Alan on 2009-03-02
Year Released: 2008
Recording Company: MoreStar Entertainment
Website: http://www.moreiramusic.com/

Review

The sophomore album by Moreira Chonguica continues where he left off on his self-imposed journey of learning about his African jazz and music roots. He certainly has paid his dues because the journey has thus far proved successful since the release of The Moreira Project Vol 1 – The Journey in 2005.

This is an outstanding and adroitly balanced jazz album from Africa. It is most defiantly not a world music album, as most American reviewers would classify it, yes they seem to guard the word/genre very jealously. Just because it’s from Africa does not automatically mean that it is a world music album, as so many reviews have won’t to do. The roots of Africa are deeply embedded which is to be expected. The collaborations on the album highlight this with Moreira’s continuing journey into musical expression, exploration and discovery.

Moreira has matured into one of the top African exponents of jazz from Africa, African jazz or do we create a new genre style and classify it Afro World Jazz! Yeah! Lets do it, if other reviewers in the America’s and Europe can invent new genres at will here’s the new one Afro World Jazz. Jazz comes from Africa originally via the USA and Europe it is time for Africa to claim it back its musical heritage. Citizen of the World – Vol 2 goes a long way to substantiate that claim. Moreira does not disappoint, he has taken his journey along with his collaborators to the world and proves that he is a leader and an innovator in the ever expanding and growing world of jazz music.

MySpace Website: http://www.myspace.com/themoreiraproject
Record Company Website: http://www.moreiramusic.com/
South African Distribution Website: http://www.moreiramusic.com/contact.html
World Wide Distribution: http://www.moreiramusic.com/contact.html
Wikipedia Entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moreira_Chonguica

Track Listings

Boarding Time; Umjita; West South Side; Beautiful Minds; The Art Of Love; Synergy; Eyes Don’t Lie; The Praise Poem; Blue Puzzle; Otupam; Relaxante; Now; The Geisha; Sambabenta; Retrospect; Utopia; Ashanti; A Ultima Vez

Musicians

Moreira Chonguica, Alto, Soprano and Tenor Saxophones, Penny Whistle, Flutes; Mano Dibango, Tenor sax and Vocals; Najee, Flute; Ross McDonald, Trombone; Lenrick Boesack, Alto Sax; Simba, Martins Bernardo, Jaco Maria, Vocals; Mandla Mlangeni, Trumpet; Tony Paco, Frank Paco, Drums; John Hassan, Percussion; Ronan Skillian, Tabla; Angelo Syster, Guitar; Mark Fransman, Camillo Lombard, Piano, Keyboards; Conroy Scott, Shaun Johannes, Double Bass; Lucas Khumalo, Helder Gonzaga, Electric Bass; Dane Coetzer, Cello; Lee-Anne April, Violin

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