319

Various Artists: Africa Straight Ahead

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
Various Artists: Africa Straight Ahead Africa Straight Ahead is the latest curve ball tossed by Heads Up since label head Dave Love visited Cape Town in 1998 and fell in love with South African jazz. Normally devoted to jazz on the softer side, the label's Africa Series put out two volumes of Smooth Africa in 2000 and 2003.

Tapping the smooth side of South African jazz made sense given the generally placid nature of that country's music. However, we now have Africa Straight Ahead, which is exactly what it says, a collection of twelve diverse tracks which find themselves firmly entrenched in the tradition.

But not afraid to stretch it here and there. What's interesting about this compilation is that it makes virtually no mention that these artists all come from the very Southern tip of the continent, and there's no hint that almost every track originated on South Africa's own Sheer Sound label.

Those may sound like quibbles, but the jazz tradition in South Africa runs back seventy years (by far the most distinctive and deep such sound of any country on the Dark Continent). And Sheer Sound, for what it's worth, has brought scores of artists to the spotlight, putting such luminaries as saxophonist Zim Ngqawana and pianist Hotep Idris Galeta prominently on the map. So salute both the nation and its musical leaders.

Zim appears on an extremely mellow "Beautiful Love," playing lovely floating flute melodies from his record Zimphonic Suites (2001), true to the tune's title in every way. Galeta closes out the disc with "Shawn's Uhadi Samba," a paced, upbeat jam with a catchy theme and bouncy groove. Trumpeter Marcus Wyatt , perhaps the straightest ahead of the artists here, digs deep into the simmering energy of post bop on the opening "Owed To Bishop" and returns in softer ballad mode with the quintet called Voice for "Sweet Anathi."

This is the best opportunity you can find if you want a sweeping overview of the happening players in South African jazz today. Like most compilations, it should serve as a jumping off point toward individual artists with flair and style. You need to feed it into your ears to see what works for you, but there's no bum steer here. South African jazz is one of the sweetest sounds on the planet, ironic enough given its trials and tribulations during the apartheid era. Listen to these players to hear where the music is headed.

Visit Heads Up on the web.


Track Listing: Owed To Bishop - Marcus Wyatt; Naivasha (The Moon In A Bowl) - Paul Hanmer; Celebrate Mzansi - Moses Khumalo; Beautiful Love - Zim Ngqawana; Langery - Sheer Allstars; Tugela Rail - Darium Brubeck And Afro Cool Concept; Sweet Anathi - Voice; Lovers On Empty Corners - Sheer Allstars; Amasabekwelanggenti - Mccoy Mrubata; Dee Mwa Wee - Andy Narell; Imbali - Bheki Mselku; Shawn's Uhdi Samba - Hotep Idris Galeta.

Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Heads Up International | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read Over the Rainbow CD/LP/Track Review Over the Rainbow
by Paul Rauch
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Before The Silence CD/LP/Track Review Before The Silence
by John Sharpe
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Process And Reality CD/LP/Track Review Process And Reality
by Mark Corroto
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1 CD/LP/Track Review Masters Legacy Series, Volume 1
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 24, 2017
Read Backlog CD/LP/Track Review Backlog
by Mark F. Turner
Published: February 24, 2017
Read The Picasso Zone CD/LP/Track Review The Picasso Zone
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: February 23, 2017
Read "Goodbye Red Rose (2008/9)" CD/LP/Track Review Goodbye Red Rose (2008/9)
by John Eyles
Published: October 16, 2016
Read "Jazz Jukebox" CD/LP/Track Review Jazz Jukebox
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: October 31, 2016
Read "Boston, 1954" CD/LP/Track Review Boston, 1954
by Richard J Salvucci
Published: October 1, 2016
Read "EARS" CD/LP/Track Review EARS
by Rob Caldwell
Published: April 3, 2016
Read "Penumbra" CD/LP/Track Review Penumbra
by Karl Ackermann
Published: January 10, 2017
Read "Jazz Jukebox" CD/LP/Track Review Jazz Jukebox
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: November 24, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!