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Elegant tones from the piano of South Africa's Paul Hanmer make this fusion of smooth sounds an interesting disc. The pianist brings together a rather large assembly of jazz talent on Naivasha, rounding out his sound in several different contexts. Combining various percussion and horns, Hanmer and crew dissect and twist jazz's softer side.
Opening with a beautiful ballad of African percussion and smooth rhythms, Hanmer displays some tight chops from himself as well as horn players McCoy Mrubata and Marcus Wyatt. Even though these guys lay down some impressive work, the disc rarely goes beyond snippets of solos and riffs within the context of each track. Ultimately that leads to a frustrating listen. With that said, however, Hanmer's arrangements of the soft sounds of African percussion are quite slick. Much of the work on here recalls and pays tribute to the pioneers of smooth jazz. Hanmer as a leader is impressive not only in his playing, but also his eclectic use of styles. While soft-as-silk arrangements reign supreme throughout this record ("You Must Neva" is a fine example), the tunes change pace quite often. The group steps from a snapping percussion groove to a more aggressive fusion-based sound to a beautiful slow piece like "Catherine Wheel" in a matter of minutes.
After hearing this disc you cannot help but enjoy the spirit shared by Hamner and his mates; they are tight and compliment each other well. But the frustration of quickly cut solos with long soundscape interludes makes Naivasha a boring and exasperating album overall.
Track Listing: 1. The Ballad of Chritianah & William
2. You Must Neva
3. Unspoken Secrets
5. Catherine Wheel
8. Cape Spanish Inquisition
9. Fanfare for J 10. The 3 Mafuta's
Personnel: Paul Hanmer - piano
Denis Lalouette - electric bass
Kevin Gibson - drums
Louis Mhlanga - electric & acoustic guitars
Barry Van Zyl - drums on 1, 8 & 9
Basi Mahlasela - percussion
Andre' Abrahamse - fretless bass on 1
Marcus Wyatt - trumpet
McCoy Mrubata - tenor sax
Sydney Mnisi - tenor sax
John Davies - trombone
Lesley Luburn - cor anglais
Shamil Loutfrochmanov - french horn
Zonta Hofmeyer, Miroslav Chakaryan & Viara Murkova - violin 1
Anneke de Villiers, Maria Branco & Jacques Fourie - violin 2
Jeanne-Louise Moolman & Elizabeth Rennie - viola
Susan Mouton & Laurie Howe - cello
I was first exposed to jazz while learning to play chess with my uncles. They would play smooth jazz, and then switch up to more standard types of jazz. But, when they played Kind of Blue by Miles Davis, I was
hooked and I haven't looked back.