On Mabuta's debutWelcome To This World (Afrosynth Records, 2018)South African bassist, electronic musician and composer Shane Cooper introduced ears to a leading-edge ensemble intent on delivering trippy, dance-friendly designs. Now, with this second album, he doubles down on that core concept, delivering a heap of hip groovers which draw strength from Pan-African influences and ride high in the atmosphere, twirling atop a rotating cast of drummers plucked from points across the eastern hemisphere.
Kicking things off with the title track, Mabuta immediately demonstrates a love for trance and travel. Cooper and Swiss drummer Julian Sartorius act as a stabilizing force on the surface while trumpeter Robin Fassie and saxophonists Sisonke Xonti and Buddy Wells inhabit the swirling stardust above. Wells and Sartorius step out and pianist Bokani Dyera primary band memberand South African drummer Lungile Maduna jump in for the caffeinated, Cape Jazz-inflected "Where The Heart Is." It's a number which sits well in that second slot, highlighting this band's easy relationships with both contrast and consistency.
Moving deeper into the program, Mabuta shifts briefly to a quartet format (with Swiss drummer Mario Hänni on the kit) for the inviting "Umshana," which broadens sounds of the Motherland with some cosmic coloring, and the deeply funky "Spirit Animal," launched with ripe horn riffing and forwarded by the featured handiwork of Cooper and Dutch drummer Jamie Peet. Then the band takes a playful turn with the pulsating, wide-eyed "Kucheza," bringing Dyer and Maduna back to the party; uses dry beats from Swedish stick man Christopher Cantillo to underscore the introduction of intrigue and cooler air on "Joburg Poem"; and marries sensibilities from the '70s with the sound of today on "Flow," which finds another Swiss drummerArthur Hnatekdelivering the grooving goods while Fassie gets his due before the band moves towards the outer limits.
By the time Senegalese drummer Andre Toungamani joins Cooper, Dyer, Xonti and Fassie to close the album with "The Walk," it feels as if things are just getting started. Refreshing and uplifting as can be, it's a performance which seems to signal a beginning rather than an end. Perhaps that's just the nature of sound in flux. Mabuta surely knows that better than most.
Finish The Sun; Where The Heart Is; Umshana; Spirit Animal; Kucheza; Joburg Poem; Flow; The Walk;
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