Various Artists: Africa Straight Ahead (2004)
Heads Up Records continues its Africa Series with Africa Straight Ahead, a collection of reasonably mainstream jazz offerings by prominent South African jazz musicians. Listening to this collection conjures a couple of observations. First, jazz long ago became a universal language, assimilating the cultural characteristics of those composing and performing the music. Second, while not veering too far from the original muse, the music is transformed by different climates. The music performed on Africa Straight Ahead shares the notable distinctions of exotic polyrhythms and the use of likewise exotic percussion with the Latin varieties of jazz. It prompts one to ask who influenced whom. But that is not the right question... "How did these different brands of jazz influence each other?" is better.
Capetown native Hotep Idris Galeta 's "Shawn’s Uhdi Samba" adopts the Latin samba as a jumping-off point, but gives it a humid, almost island lilt in the horns and piano. Paul Hanmer 's "Naivasha" is rhythmically lush, propelled by his steady left hand. Orchestral in scope and complex in composition, the tune satisfies both pop and hard-core jazz sensibilities. The Sheer All Stars provide hook-filled jazz filigree with "Langery," which sports a distinct Latin flavor. Voice's "Sweet Anathi" uses a simple three-beat motif over which to make music magic. Pianist Andile Yenana has an infectious sense of time on the piece. The pacing of this piece, as well as several others, approximates the singing style of fellow countrymen Ladysmith Black Mambazo .
This is a sonically superb collection. The percussion is crisp, the reeds hot, the trumpets cool, and the piano dancing. The collection achieves its dual goal of exposing both the South African flavor of jazz and the musicians making it.
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Track Listing: Owed To Bishop