Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

346

Pat Matshikiza: Seasons, Masks And Keys

Seton Hawkins By

Sign in to view read count
Seasons, Masks And Keys functions as a retrospective of pianist and composer Pat Matshikiza's career. It is a long-overdue attempt to bring more recognition to this highly influential, yet underrecorded figure in South African jazz. Although nobody questions his status as one of the genre's great figures, given his 1975 landmark recording Tshona!, Matshikiza recordings are rare and difficult to come by. This album, perhaps, is the first step to fixing this problem.

The recording consists of pieces Matshikiza has written over the past fifty years, plus two covers. Given the timespan, it stands to reason that the music covers a number of styles, from the 1970s jazz-funk of "Amaqhawe" to the blues-tinged "Vula Mama" and the slower jazz waltz "Tribute." Every composition showcases his undeniable mastery of melody—lyrical, easygoing, yet often unpredictable melodic lines. Matshikiza is one of South Africa's greatest composers, able to leap from genre to genre without ever losing his unique lyrical gifts.

Additionally, many of the tunes are written for vocals, and the singers here are phenominal. In particular, Zandile Hlatshwayo's performance on "Imali Yami" channels Busi Mhlongo in her ability to range from gentle, seductive singing to powerful, forceful calls at the drop of a hat. Additionally, Siphokazi Maregana's smoky voice and blues-influenced delivery result in a gorgeous performance of "Vula Mama."

However, the album faces difficulties in these vocal tunes, which make up the first half. While the vocalists are excellent and the backing band is very good, one can't help but feel that the band is consistently settling into too easy a groove—not taking enough risks, not projecting enough force (a notable exception is the maskanda-influenced track "Gqibele Nini?"). As his 1971 recording demonstrates, Matshikiza's piano playing has a gospel-powered forcefulness, which is absent at points in this album.

Nevertheless, by track eight, all problems are solved. The music moves from vocal to instrumental compositions, and Feya Faku and Sidney Mnisi join the group on trumpet and tenor saxophone, respectively. Faku's dark tone and subtle solos, combined with Mnisi's Coltrane-like tone, are the perfect vehicles for Matshikiza, who seems to be aiming for a warmer, less "raw" sound on this album.

Proof of this can be found in the album's re-recording of "Tshona." It is impossible to match the driving bass line of Alec Khaoli or the sheer power of Kippie Moeketsi and Basil Coetzee on saxophones, so the group opts for a different approach in the new version. "Tshona" takes on a darker, warmer sound in the horns, while the rhythm section lays back somewhat and drives the piece along in a more grand, stately tone.

Closing the album is a bonus track entitled "Umthandazo," a gorgeous piano/guitar duet between Pat Matshikiza and Lawrence Matshiza, the album's producer. Its stark, lyrical beauty make it stand out from the other tracks, yet it seems the most fitting way to close the album. Hearing Matshikiza on this pared down track offers a testament and reminder of why he's a piano legend.

Track Listing: Sekumanxa; Amaqhawe; Vula Mama; Imali Yami; Gqibele Nini?; Maxheqwana; Ma Afrika; Tribute; Sikiza; Tshona; Umthandazo

Personnel: Pat Matshikiza: Piano; Themba Mkhize: Piano/Keyboards; Lawrence Matshiza: Guitar; Lucas Senyatso: Bass; Herbie Tsoaeli: Double Bass; Rob Watson: Drums; Tlale Makhene: Percussion; Adam Howard: Trumpet; Feya Faku: Trumpet; Sidney Mnisi: Saxophone; Julian Wiggins: Saxophone; Bez Roberts: Trombone; Thando Cungwa: Vocals; Nokukhanya Dlamini: Vocals; Vicky Vilakazi: Vocals; Margaret Motsage: Vocals; Khanyo Maphumulo: Vocals; Reuben malgas: Vocals; Yolanda Nazo: Vocals; Siphokazi Maraqana: Vocals; Zandile Hlatshwao: Vocals; Khanya Ceza: Vocals

Title: Seasons, Masks And Keys | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Gallo Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read I Always Knew CD/LP/Track Review
I Always Knew
by Paul Rauch
Published: December 12, 2018
Read It's Alright To Dream featuring JD Allen CD/LP/Track Review
It's Alright To Dream featuring JD Allen
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 12, 2018
Read Volume One CD/LP/Track Review
Volume One
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: December 12, 2018
Read Songs in the Key of Wonder CD/LP/Track Review
Songs in the Key of Wonder
by Geannine Reid
Published: December 12, 2018
Read SHIFTED CD/LP/Track Review
SHIFTED
by James Fleming
Published: December 12, 2018
Read Vilddjur CD/LP/Track Review
Vilddjur
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 11, 2018
Read "Glassbath" CD/LP/Track Review Glassbath
by Glenn Astarita
Published: May 6, 2018
Read "Sonic Fiction" CD/LP/Track Review Sonic Fiction
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 4, 2018
Read "Sweet Beyond Witness" CD/LP/Track Review Sweet Beyond Witness
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: September 3, 2018
Read "Hipnotizados" CD/LP/Track Review Hipnotizados
by Karl Ackermann
Published: November 25, 2018
Read "Look To The Sky" CD/LP/Track Review Look To The Sky
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: July 13, 2018
Read "Solo" CD/LP/Track Review Solo
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: January 13, 2018