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.
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).
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:
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.
Get more of a good thing
Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.