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Sathima Bea Benjamin: Musical Echoes

Jim Santella By

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Sathima Bea Benjamin recorded this program of jazz standards in February 2002 when she returned to Cape Town to reconnect. The bassist and drummer working with her are from South Africa. The music, however, is universal.

Benjamin uses her veteran ears to experiment with pitch, and her accompanists follow suit. Bassist Basil Moses slides gently through "Caravan, for example, bringing its exotic sheen out into the daylight. Pianist Stephen Scott provides dense harmony, drummer Lulu Gontsana adds unique rhythmic syncopation, and Benjamin has the freedom to interpret each song with her own approach. She's on her own, with the freedom to interpret as she wishes. The result is a unique performance that echoes her true spirit.

As a child, Benjamin sang in the school choir. Even then, she liked to experiment with pitch. Later, working with her husband, Abdullah Ibrahim, she was able to transfer the freedom that she felt into her performances. All across South Africa, Europe and the United States, she continued to create jazz that she made her own.

After the Sharpeville Massacre of 1960, she and Ibrahim had decided to leave Africa for exile in Europe. Jazz became their life's passion, and they were both happy to become ambassadors of the music. They returned to South Africa in 1967, but the political climate was difficult. Events in Soweto resulted in horrific violence, and the family decided again to leave, this time for New York. Between 1979 and 2002, she released eight albums on her own Ekapa label. Each one provided a blend of standard repertoire with unique interpretations.

Benjamin and Scott wrote "Musical Echoes for her return to Cape Town. The tender ballad provides a reflection of her illustrious career, reminding us of her heartfelt love for country, along with a contagious passion for jazz. Benjamin and her musical partners provide a personal take on what makes the world turn. Moses' expressive bass solos add considerable warmth, and the singer is able to convey her feelings intuitively. Her unique interpretations leave musical echoes that transcend politics and settle comfortably in a world of aesthetic beauty.

Track Listing: All Too Soon; Caravan; Falling In Love With Love; I

Personnel: Sathima Bea Benjamin: vocals; Stephen Scott: piano; Basil Moses: bass; Lulu Gontsana: drums.

Title: Musical Echoes | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Ekapa

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