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Winston Mankunku Ngozi had no blowing restrictions on this date, that’s for sure! Although there are only seven compositions in this Ngozi production, there is enough in all of the cuts to please and fill anyone’s appetite in this fantastic oeuvre that varies itself repeatedly keeping you attentive at large. Bottom line is, you must get this one.
“Khanya” has a hyphenated identity where African jazz and Afro-Cuban rhythmic bases unveil a saxophonist of panoramic proportions, particularly in mainstreamed sections. Swinging transitions and calls to switch on the spot with diverse feelings, chord changes, fierceness, freedom and a lovely tone shine here; and elsewhere throughout Molo Africa. The same, happily, applies to the arrangements and the compositions themselves. Aside from that, any recording with trumpeter Feya Faku is going to be worth anyone’s attention.
“A Song for Bra Des Tutu (Dedicated to D.V. Mapisa)” is admirable and full of grace, beauty, and fatness of tone in a superb Ngozi bottom providing his own type of ecclesial-march in jazz. Funk and groove hang in the ‘hoods of “Lagunya Khayelitsha (Zonke).” It requires little effort to imagine people in any corner of South Africa jamming it up with Faku’s crystal-clear trumpet solo and its engaging assuredness. Ngozi, however, charges things up afterwards with his own savvy brand of challenges and sonic playfulness that can only be produced by a veteran such as him. “Tembela Enkosini” features and introduction with Ngozi on piano and himself on a two tenor solo dialogue. It is a remarkable sight! After almost five minutes into the song things get mainstreamed slowly but steadily with lovely vocal effects while the playing gets looser, more energetic, as well as bigger. The molasses-like lead vocal towards the end, finishing with a big-band sound, treated with some africanía, is a treat. “Let Go” clocks at more than 12 minutes with Ngozi and Faku playing a superb two-horned ensemble work garnished by extraordinary solo works in their respective instruments. There is enough malleability in the arrangement to let both performers explore as much territory as they want, and they do explore a vast expanse reporting on the marvels found. Ngozi’s playing in “Peace Brothers Peace” is to be relished. There is yet another twist into mainstream territory embedded in this composition and Ngozi never falters on sax, neither on the vocals scattered throughout. The title cut bids us farewell with a tune with enough richness in its vocabulary, emotions, intelligence, tonality, culture, street flavors and just sheer fun, to make you go look for more from Ngozi.
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.