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Musa Manzini: My Bass

Seton Hawkins By

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My Bass, Musa Manzini's third solo outing, is an album by a bassist, for bassists. Manzini is not afraid to wear his influences on his sleeve—the solo bass overdubbing and slapping of Victor Wooten, the genre-hopping creativity of Gito Baloi, and much more can all be heard here. However, Manzini very much has his own voice. On electric bass, he favors high-register playing and can toss off long, flowing melodic lines that can turn into funky, mid-register riff-like statements at the drop of a hat.

However, the album's rather singular focus on the bass can yield uneven musical results. On tracks like "Noluthando, "Latin Love, and "He's the Greatest, the lack of attention to the other instruments results in a fairly uninteresting mix. For example, while Manzini's bass lines are complicated, surprising, and exciting, they are not well served by his insistence on using a drum machine. A strong, sympathetic drummer (Rob Watson comes to mind) would be able to lock in with Manzini and adapt the beat to Manzini's ever-changing moods.

Nevertheless, when the tracks are good, they're good. "Bass Funtasie features Manzini creating a dense, funky mix of bass riffs all over some fantastic slap bass. The closing two tracks, "Sebenza Always and "Power of Love, showcase Manzini on the acoustic bass, where his warm, twangy sound provides a nice alternative to his otherwise clean and bright electric bass tone.

Manzini seems to be most comfortable and cooperative on "Tembani and "African Union, where he's teamed up with organist Harold Wynkwaart, guitarist Erik Pilane, and saxophonist Percy Mbonani. On these tracks the group comes together to lay down some fantastic soul mbaqanga that would have made the Soul Brothers proud. Manzini is also content to sit back a little more and let the others shine, as his playing moves a little more in the lower register and he alters it to incorporate shorter, riff-like statements. When the other musicians are allowed to step up and assert themselves, the results can be amazing. Harold Wynkwaart in particular is incredible on the organ—I hope to hear much more of him in the future.

Ultimately, if you came to hear great bass playing, My Bass is extremely satisfying. Manzini is going to be one of South Africa's great bassists—that's saying a lot!—and may one day be placed in the company of the Sipho Gumedes, Carlo Mombellis, and Johnny Dyanis of SA jazz. However, these greats knew when the bassist needed to step back and let the other instruments shine. Manzini is capable of making this happen, but he doesn't seem to be comfortable with it. With luck, that will change very soon.

Track Listing: Just Like Cape Town; Noluthando; Tembani; Talk to Me; Blue Bass; Bass Funtasie; Eyabahlonishwa; African Union; Intro - Lonely House; Lonely House; Bass Talk; Latin Love; He's the Greatest; Sebenza Always (Qukula Zasha); Power of Love.

Personnel: Musa Manzini: basses, programming, keyboards, vocals; Africa Mkhize: piano, keyboards; Erike Pilane: guitar; Julian Wiggins: saxophone; Adam Howard: trumpet; Bez Roberts: trombone; Harold Wynkwaart: piano and organ; Khanya Ceza: vocals; Percy Mbonani: saxophone; Herbie Tsoaeli: bass, programming, vocals; Antonio Lyons: spoken word.

Title: My Bass | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Sheer Sound

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