Wisdom of Elders cover

Wisdom of Elders


UK-based saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings assembled this amazing band of South African jazz players — trumpeter Mandla Mlangeni, alto saxophonist Mthunzi Mvubu, keyboardist Nduduzo Makhathini, bassist Ariel Zamonsky, drummer Tumi Mogorosi, percussionist Gontse Makhene, and vocalist Siyabonga Mthembu — in 2016. They wrote and rehearsed the material for their debut album together, all except for Makhathini, who was brought in on the day of the sessions to add an element of improvisatory uncertainty. The pieces are mostly vamplike in structure, with some very nice unison horn charts, but the rhythms have a uniquely South African feel, like clouds of dust roused by bare, dancing feet. Hutchings’ tenor solos have a kind of reverent, stately beauty that escalates into Pharoah Sanders-ish harsh blowing without ever letting go of the melody, and Makhathini makes an excellent wild card, coming up with some fascinating keyboard sounds and injecting himself into the music in unexpected but apposite ways.

Phil Freeman

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