Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

456

Themba Mkhize: Hands On

Seton Hawkins By

Sign in to view read count
If one were to divide Themba Mkhize's career into periods, it could be split in two: the Sakhile period—his time with the now-legendary Zulu jazz/pop group; and the post-Sakhile period—solo albums on which Mkhize's own highly bop-influenced piano comes to the forefront, and the albums come across as accessible post-bop outings with strong African influences. On Hands On, a 2004 solo outing, Mkhize pays tribute to both areas of his musical interest, and the result is a fascinating, genre-defying blend of Safro jazz, Zulu a cappella, jazz-funk, and post-Coltrane jazz.

The Sakhile influence is obvious on many tracks—"Walk the Line," "Sweet Home," and "All Seasons" sound as though they came straight off of a Sakhile record (the fact that Mkhize used fellow alums Khaya Mahlangu and Fana Zulu as sidemen certainly contributes to this trend). While for the most part these tracks won't surprise anyone who has followed Mkhize or Sakhile, they are still well-performed, well-written pieces that are extremely enjoyable to hear.

However, where the album really gets interesting is on Mkhize's covers, and also on some of the originals where he rocks the Sakhile boat a bit. The covers span a broad range: a particularly laid back, slow-burning version of "Shosholoza" (aka The Song You Hear at South African Rugby Games); a gentle, loving rendition of Hugh Masekela's "Polina"; and most notably, an angular, funky take on guitar legend Phillip Tabane's "Umkobola." All of these tracks showcase Mkhize's effortlessly fluid solos on the piano—think a South African Herbie Hancock—and his remarkable use of synths for color and contrapuntal keyboard work.

More important, some of the Mkhize-composed tracks suggest an entirely new direction for him. "Izinkomo Zobaba" features Shaluza Max's powerful bass vocals set against Mkhize's piano and Rob Watson's drums. This can only be described as South Africa's answer to the John Coltrane Quartet. Watson and Mkhize lock in to create a powerful, unstoppable flow of rhythms and modal harmonies that both support and challenge Shaluza Max's growled vocals. "Peak Hour" showcases Mkhize on a hyperactively skittish organ, mixed in with atmospheric synths and percussion, resulting in a striking blend of ethereal and urgent. The only other musician who has used synths this convincingly was the late great pianist Moses Molelekwa.

Mkhize's other solos albums, like Tales from the South and Lost and Found, tend towards a gospel-flavored post-bop jazz over the jazz/pop of his earlier days. On Hands On, Mkhize seems to be reconciling and synthesizing the two. The album is a highly accessible, yet consistently interesting and creative album—a worthy contender for one of 2004's best jazz albums (even if the South African Music Awards gave that accolade to Tlale Makhene's The Ascension of the Enlightened).

Track Listing: Shosholoza; Wamthinta uPhefeni; Walk the Talk; Izinkomo Zobaba; Sweet Home; Laku Tshon'ilanga; Polina; Umkobola; Yem Yem; All Seasons; Lulu's Secret; Peak Hour; Zawa City.

Personnel: Themba Mkhize: piano, keyboards, vocals; Rob Watson: drums; Fana Zulu: bass; Tlale Makhene: percussion; Zoli Bacela: guitar; Adam Howard: trumpet; Bez Roberts: trombone; Kgomotso Mshugi: vocals; Ayanda Bacela: vocals; Thembela Mvelase: vocals; Mpumi Mvelase: vocals; Mbuso Khoza: vocals; Lucas Senyatso: bass; Shaluza Max: vocals; Khaya Mahlangu: flute; Prince Lengoasa: flugelhorn.

Title: Hands On | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Unknown label

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Hands On

Hands On

Unknown label
2005

buy

Related Articles

Read World Gardens CD/LP/Track Review
World Gardens
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: December 14, 2018
Read Henry II CD/LP/Track Review
Henry II
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 14, 2018
Read Conference Of The Mat/ts CD/LP/Track Review
Conference Of The Mat/ts
by Mark Corroto
Published: December 14, 2018
Read Hidden Treasures Vol. 1, Monday Nights CD/LP/Track Review
Hidden Treasures Vol. 1, Monday Nights
by Chris Mosey
Published: December 14, 2018
Read Âme Sèche CD/LP/Track Review
Âme Sèche
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 14, 2018
Read Fred Hersch Trio '97 @ The Village Vanguard CD/LP/Track Review
Fred Hersch Trio '97 @ The Village Vanguard
by Doug Collette
Published: December 13, 2018
Read "Putumayo Presents: Ska Around the World" CD/LP/Track Review Putumayo Presents: Ska Around the World
by Jim Trageser
Published: October 20, 2018
Read "The Unrecorded Fox" CD/LP/Track Review The Unrecorded Fox
by Jack Bowers
Published: July 3, 2018
Read "Unloved" CD/LP/Track Review Unloved
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 19, 2017
Read "The Acadian Orogeny" CD/LP/Track Review The Acadian Orogeny
by Geannine Reid
Published: July 19, 2018
Read "Journey to a New World" CD/LP/Track Review Journey to a New World
by Troy Dostert
Published: January 21, 2018
Read "Tokyo 1975" CD/LP/Track Review Tokyo 1975
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: July 11, 2018