Winston Mankunku Ngozi: Abantwana Be Afrika (2003)
In contrast to that forward assertion of identity, Mankunku's music has become much more soft and meditative in recent years, with Molo Africa (1998) an optimistic highlight. The all-acoustic Abantwana Be Afrika ("Children of Africa") represents a return to roots, a middle ground for the saxophonist, with ten traditional jazz cuts in a (mostly) quintet setting.
His band brings together heavy hitters from the present day, most notably pianist Andile Yenana, whose firm but understated support recalls similar '60s efforts by McCoy Tyner and Herbie Hancock. Drummer Lulu Gontsana has an unerring sense of swing that regularly adopts light shades of Latin and funk styles. And Mankunku himself sounds calm, self-assured, warm, and articulate. The title tune (with vocals and a melody that beckon "Children of Africa" to dance) has an irresistibly catchy groove; the other selections tend to be more serious and reflective.
Abantwana Be Afrika represents a dramatic return for Winston Mankunku Ngozi, a reminder that he hasn't forgotten his roots or lost the ability to express depths of emotion through deceptively simple words.
Track Listing: Give Peace a Chance (Een Liedtjie vir Saldanha Bay), Ndizakuxhela Kwamajola, Bantwana Be Afrika (Children of Africa), George & I, Lakutshon' Ilanga, Dedication (to Daddy Trane & Brother Shorter), Inhlupeko, Tshawe, Ekuseni, Thula Mama.
Personnel: Winston "Mankunku" Ngozi - tenor & soprano sax, Prince Lengoasa - flugelhorn & vocals, Andile Yenana - piano & vocals, Herbie Tsoaeli - acoustic bass & vocals, Lulu Gontsana - drums & vocals.
Record Label: Sheer Sound