Four Fourty: Us+Them=1 (2006)
In an age where many albums rely on pyrotechnics, famous guest musicians or outright all-star lineups, Four Fourty offers a refreshing alternative. While each of the musicians is a solid soloistfrom Mvuzo Dimba's Horace Silver-like piano playing to Vuyisile Sabongo's Maceo Parker-inspired saxophone funkthe band emphasizes the collaborative aspect of playing on Us+Them=1. The results speak for themselves with this easy-to-digest, laid-back collection of tracks.
Stylistically, the band finds itself composing and performing in various genres. "The Cause is a driving R&B outing; "Us+Them=1 and "Twenty Twenty Six pay homage to Abdullah Ibrahim's Ekaya compositions; while "Ode to Sarah Baartman and "Tshisa remind me of the Cape Town grooves of legendary saxophonist Robbie Jansen.
For the most part, the tracks are exceptionally solid. "Chantimantra and "Mesh'talk run slightly on the banal side; however, they are counterbalanced by outstanding tracks like the tender "Njalo Njalo and the sprightly "The Cause. Additionally, the band plays the tracks with a loose, comfortable feel that makes for a remarkably fun listening experience. In their effort to work together on the pieces instead of competing, each member is able to bring nuanced and subtle additions to the mix. Drummer Jerry Dibakoane is especially impressive, constantly shifting his solid rhythmic foundation while remaining firmly in the background.
Ultimately, Us+Them=1 won't surprise anyone who has been listening to South African jazz. However, that doesn't seem to be the point with Four Fourty. This band will draw you in and keep you with its enjoyable compositions, thoughtful solos and incredibly danceable groove.
Note: this release is available from One World on the web.
Track Listing: Us+Them=1; Cloverdene Groove; Ode to Sarah Baartman; Twelve Twenty Six; The Cause; Chantimantra; Mesh'talk; Tshisa; Toto; Njalo Njalo.
Personnel: Vuyisile Sabongo: saxophones; Mvuzo Dimba: piano, saxophone, percussion; Steven Mabona: bass; Jerry Dibakoane: drums; Bheki Mbatha: trombone; Siphiwe Khoza: percussion; Julius Nkuna: percussion.