You can take the jazz out of Africa, but you can't take the Africa out of the jazz. From the opening notes, South African saxophonist/flutist Zim Ngqawana's third disc as a leader coveys a sense of revelation and discovery. Zimphonic Suites organizes itself around five musical capsules, each with its own specific flavor and color. The first suite, "Ingoma Ya Kwantu," aims for a sense of "inner attainment," bridging tribal debts to imperial court music with a Coltrane-like devotional pursuit. The first tune leaps off into a deliberately paced modal exploration, briefly touching on a drum solo and then heading back into the savana for a bindingly emotional climax in "Resolution." Ngqawana's flute playing here betrays a refreshing polyglot literacy.
Subsequent suites connect the dots between tribal vocal/drumming music and instrumental improvisation. Ngqawana's core quartet dances about the boundaries and sews things up in unexpected ways. "Ebhofolo (This Madness)" features emphatic vocals strung across swinging bitonal harmony, with some elegant call-and-response playing as well as extended improvisations which vary at times from animal noises to impassioned cries. Perhaps the most dissonant piece on the record, this tune relies on a deeper inner logic to steer it forward. Subsequent efforts bring out references to tribal melodies, dance hall swing, bossa nova, and a variety of other influences. One has the feeling here not just of cross-fertilization, but a strong compositional focus on emotive expression. Ngqawana's saxophone and flute playing, in particular, harnesses a wonderful inner energy to communicate a message transcending style or nationality.
Track Listing: Ingoma Ya Kwantu: Invocation, Royal Drumming, Resolution; Intlombe
Variations: Diviners Ceremony, Ebhofolo (This Madness), Bantu
(Rainbow Nation); Abaphantsi (Ancestry Suite): Sud Afrika (A Country
Without A Name), Ode to Princess Magogo (Classical Composer), Old
Blues (Early Harmonic Devices), Compassion (Ubuntu);
www.kwantunent.com (aka African Continent); Ballroom Dance Suite: Man
and Woman (Duality of Life), Man (A Dying Father Figure), Two To Tangle
(Challenges of Life); Celebrations: Chisa (Wedding Festivities),
Gobbliesation (In A Global Village), Beautiful Love (It's All About Love).
Personnel: Zim Ngqawana: soprano, alto, and tenor saxophones, alto, picolo, and
c-flutes, harmonica, bicycle bells, chimes, whistles, vocals, and piano;
Andile Yenana: piano, vocals; Herbie Tsoaeli: bass, vocals; Kevin Gibson:
I was first exposed to jazz by my father, who was a rabid fan when he was younger, in the early to mid 1950's. We lived in NYC and he was a regular at places like the Village Vanguard and Birdland. One of his favorite stories involved meeting Charlie Parker and Miles on 52nd St
I was first exposed to jazz by my father, who was a rabid fan when he was younger, in the early to mid 1950's. We lived in NYC and he was a regular at places like the Village Vanguard and Birdland. One of his favorite stories involved meeting Charlie Parker and Miles on 52nd St. Needless to say, Jazz and Blues were always on the stereo in our home. I was steeped in these exciting sounds, and they make up some of my earliest memories.