ArtSpoken & Reviews

From a sax battle to Tete and Tango

Don Albert
04/26/2012 09:13:35

Jazzaholic by Don Albert: Weary of the ‘deep’ morbid depths many young players seem they have to delve into and looking for a blowing, swinging session?

Your best bet is Eric Alexander & Vincent Herring’s latest titled Friendly Fire recorded live at Smoke in NY.

There’s a lot of fiery passion here as tenor and alto lock horns backed by a solid rhythm section of bassist John Webber, drummer Carl Allen and the always superb piano playing of Mike LeDonne. Dare I say it? It has that old Blue Note feel about it, maybe it’s the two Hank Mobley tunes “Pat ’n’ Chat” and the funky “Dig Dis” that creates the mood. Herring features on “You’ve Changed” and Alexander softens his tone to breathe new life into “Mona Lisa” complete with verse. Two tender moments between the sax battles.

Woody’s Delight is Steve Turre’s tribute to Woody Shaw. Using the trumpet and trombone front line with various trumpeters Jon Faddis, Wallace Roney, Claudio Roditi, Chocolate Armenteros and Freddie Hendrix. Faddis is Diz inspired, Roney might recall Miles, but his long lines are his own, Roditi adds authenticity to two Latin tinged tracks, my favourite being “Adios Mi Amigo” with its authentic soft rhythm and Turre’s almost crying plunger solo. The rhythm section and piano of Luis Perdomo steal the limelight on ”Manny’s Mambo”. “3 for Woody” is a jazz waltz. In general some really good playing especially from the leader, and nice writing for trumpet and trombone.

The above CDs are on HighNote Records and available in South Africa.

On the local front I find it quite amazing that a pianist of the calibre of Tete Mbambisa is well known amongst South African musicians, yet relatively unknown to the public.

He has written compositions and/or arrangements recorded by such artists as Winston Mankunku Ngozi, The Soul Jazzmen, Chris McGregor, McCoy Mrubata and Adam Glasser.

On his latest CD Black Heroes one hears his melodies, underpinned with rich chordal voicings and often a bass line that is pure African. His mix of African and American jazz is subtle.

You’ll hear a tune such as “Dembese” and know the melody, now you will now know it was written by Mbambisa.

He is not afraid to display his emotional style on slower tempos, or to call out ‘hey’ when he likes what he’s doing, as on “Masiye”. He also has a strong side, but never just pounds the keyboard. A good example is the way he plays block chords on “Thembile’s Workshop” or his ostinato bass on “Umsenge” while on “Emavundleni” he evokes a bluesy feel.

Thanks must go to Jonathan Eato, who was responsible for setting up this recording and who also produced it.

If you liked the movie The Scent of a Woman and you enjoy the music of Astor Piazzolla then you have to listen to Tango Club by the CT Tango Ensemble. This group which plays authentic Argentinean tango comprises Stanislav Angelov bandonéon and accordion, Jacek Domagala violin, Albert Combrink piano and keyboards and Charles Lazar double bass plus guests Adriana Edwards vocal, Willie van Zyl alto saxophone, Kevin Gibson drums and James Grace guitar. Of the 13 tracks seven are by Piazzolla others include originals by Angelov and Lazar. “Cape Town Tango” has a distinctive Cape Carnival sound cleverly intertwined with original tango. If I didn’t find this a very interesting, and an enjoyable aside from the jazz I normally review, I would not have included it here. It reminded me of the time I heard Astor Piazzolla with Gary Burton at the Montreux Jazz Festival, and of course Piazzolla also recorded with Gerry Mulligan. So there is a jazz strain in there. Most listenable. If you can’t find this CD in the shops go to

Don Albert is a saxophonist and jazz journalist. He spent 12 years with The Star Newspaper on the Tonight! section writing about jazz. Currently he writes jazz CD and book reviews for Financial Mail and is the South African Correspondent for Downbeat (USA) and Jazz Journal International (UK). He has presented radio programmes on jazz and served as judge at prestigious competitions. He has also won numerous awards.