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Nduduzo Makhathini: uNomkhubulwane

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Nduduzo Makhathini: uNomkhubulwane
Abundantly, beatifically, and beautifully ebullient, uNomkhubulwane, Nduduzo Makhathini's eleventh overall effort but third masterwork for Blue Note (his 2020 Blue Note first, Modes of Communication: Letters From the Underworlds and 2022's In the Spirit of Ntu still shimmer and transcend) is, as is the South African pianist's quickly evolving tradition, radiant and revelatory.

Emerging from a mother song gifted to Makhathini during his initiation process to become a healer, (the pianist was immersed in water in order to encounter the Zulu goddess uNomkhubulwane) the elegant crafter opener "Libations: Omnyama," relies on a gracefully hypnotic repeated figure to establish its beautiful trance. Makhathini's resonant, storytelling spoken word enchants as well as heals. It is a marvelous six minutes of utter transportation.

"Uxolo," the second movement of the album's first suite (tracks one, two, three comprise "Libations"; four through seven "Water Spirits" and the final four "Inner Attainment") illuminates Makhathini's simplicity of touch and organic command of style. Equal parts blues, church, juke joint, and diaspora, bassist Zwelakhe-Duma Bell le Pere and drummer Francisco Mela are their own esoteric engines, rolling with Makhathini's exquisite lyricism. Mela, (a man who seems to never stop making music) brings exotic magic to the post-boppish "KwaKhangelamankengana."

The "Water Spirits" suite ambles in on the gospel proud "Izinkonjana." Locked in and clairvoyant, the trio plays it like a standard heard for the first time again. "Amanxusa Asemkhathini" follows fiercely on its heels, mystically conjuring McCoy Tyner at peak harmonic spirituality. Mela and Bell le Pere roil and rumble, simultaneously clearing the way for Makhathini's thrilling cadences and following his every turn. The cascading "Iyana" reverently continues the pianist's sacred encounter with the goddess, who name translates to God's only daughter and a manifestation of His very creation purpose.

Music is Makhathini's church, and "Inner Attainment's" first movement "Izibingelelo" could be its mother song, "Umlayez'oPhuthumayo" its ceremony ending exultation. Closing as intuitively elegant as uNomkhubulwane began, " Ithemba" not only serves to sum up the pianist's many gifts in its joyous, cinematic theme but also expands the concept of greater music to come.

Track Listing

Libations: Omnyama; Libations: Uxolo; Libations: KwaKhangelamankengana; Water Spirtis: Izinkonjana; Water Spirit: Amanxusa Asemkhathini; Water Spirtit: Nyoni Le?; Water Spirit: Iyana; Inner Attainment: Izibingelelo; Inner Attainment: Umlayez’oPhuthumayo; Inner Attainment: Amanzi Ngobhoko; Inner Attainment: Ithemba.

Personnel

Album information

Title: uNomkhubulwane | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Blue Note Records


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