Quick and to the Point: Rich enough music to grace any jazz radio format.
Moses Khumalo has an unfortunate name given the role ascribed to him in the future of jazz in South Africa. Bearers of the musical future often exhaust themselves, especially those volunteered for such roles by the adoring public. They, none the wiser, might end up worshipping up the wrong tree. Mntungwa, however, has nothing to do with any of that. It simply documents some noteworthy jazz under the leadership of a mercurially talented fellow. With a gutturally pleasant, silken sandpapery sound –exuding celebratory beachfront breezes– the street wise –and explosively percussive Khumalo – makes you feel sorry the album is over right before you decide to press the “repeat” function on your player one more time.
Although the credits for the initial tune do not list a percussionist in the opener, it was most likely Tlale Makgene. Then again, recorded tracks are so good these days, some times is difficult to tell. One thing is sure, happening happiness is afoot with this tune. Khumalo sets the dominant tone of the production at the outset, allowing us to gain much in the process. The briefness of “Ngwana Wa Mme” is illusory, however, as much value and information gets compressed in those few minutes followed by more measured licks in “Hymn for Taiwa” –where we glide upwards on the warm lines provided by the country flavored melodic lines uttered by Khumalo and Afrika Mkhize–. As will be evident throughout the production, the added colors and flavors do enhance the conception and execution of the musical agenda. Take in Khumalo’s ache –or spiritual strength and sensitivity– in this tune, though.
“He Said” is smoother love embraced on fit saxed and vibed arms giving way to the lucid festivity of “Township Tempo.” The merriment does not end there, as “Celebrate Mzansi” comes through dancing on its way through with a fine piano measurement. Khumalo, nonetheless, melts the sax through the end. Then, “African Mood.” ‘Bone and sax do their funky thing alongside a swift steady throb in that tune.
In “Song For Leonard,” South African melodic and harmonic devices are programmed in the composition’s universe to tighten everyone around them in order to concentrate Khumalo’s powerful playing even more. Having Mkhize on keyboards in this tune sure helps matters along. “Vat My Huis Toe” manages to effect velvetiness with African percussive strength allowing us to peer into a softer, albeit always firm and stretched, side of Khumalo before he simply takes off...
“Kgotso Africa” is the only tune with lead vocals, supplied by Sonnyboy “Mzanseka” Seokolo, and backed by gorgeous African voices. Khumalo, once again, outshines even his previous best soloing as the end approaches with the title cut as closer. The end, unlike the brisk opener, builds its thematic craving with mainstreamed and Africanized New Orleanesque hints and teases –in mid to slow tempos– refreshing anyone’s Summer in any geographical “down South...”
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