With a resumé that ranges from his native Norway down to South Africa, Andreas Loven lets you know from the start that he and his piano aren't going to fit under just one umbrella. In the simple context of an acoustic quartet (joined by sax, bass and drums), his beautifully ear-catching songwriting shows facets of all the places he's beenand as with the best cross-cultural recipes, it doesn't sound like he's simply grafting elements of one place or style onto others, but making them coexist as if they've always been natural partners.
The surface of District 6 immediately shows its roots in the southern hemisphere, from the title and cover to the lineup of South Africa-based players that rounds out the recording. That culture's feel and goema rhythmic sense of course are present with this group's own distinctive slant to them, but Loven adds whole new shadings with the European sensibility and modern chamber-tinged stylings (not to mention the crystal-clear sound quality) of an ECM release. It's a blend appealing to listeners of any taste, those with a particular fondness for either region's music, or just anyone with an ear for sunny licks and superb interplay.
The musical blend may lean slightly more toward Oslo than Cape Town overall, though the loping grooves of the disc's highlight "Inside District Six" (complete with introductory sample) specifically take us on a vivid tour through coastal villages full of pure African sunshine. Occasionally instruments are also muted or strings tapped as if to suggest the tones of hand drums or thumb pianos. The quartet's synchronicity is fluid and effortless, whether they're doubling melody lines or complementing each other with the ease of chatty late-night banter. They remain cool, collected and at the same time dynamic, the animating spirit willing to be understatedly ruminative or spry and jaunty as the music demands.
Just as striking is the exquisite melodic sense that infuses each piece, from the immediate catchiness of "Good News" to the bounce of "The Boiler" or the slow beauty of "Roots." There's the spark of soul and the quiet of idle reflection, occasionally a bit somber but with an undercurrent of optimistic energy always running throughout. For Loven, his band and the rest of us with the fortune to hear it, District 6 is very good news indeed.
Track Listing: Good News; In Tune; Roots; African Piano; Shine; Inside District Six; Please Forgive Me; The Boiler; Departing Tokyo.
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