Saturday, September 30, 2006

Rants and Raves (and Gloria Bosman's new album)

Hi everyone! (all one of which I

I've created this blog in response to my attempt to write a review of a Gloria Bosman album for I can't seem to get the review started, so it obviously won't post. But still, I wanted to get my thoughts on the album out on the internet (into the ether?). If fans of South African Jazz or Safro Jazz (TM by Morris Goldberg, funnily enough) swing by with thoughts, golly, that'd be lovely.

But in the meantime...

Gloria Bosman's latest CD, emzini, seems to be a continuation, possibly a refinement, or her previous records' sound. Produced by her, it embodies the sleek, R&B-influenced Afropop that's become very popular in this new generation of South African jazz artists - Concord Nkabinde, Selaelo Selota, Labella, Four Fourty, Jimmy Dludlu, and so on.

Whether or not this is a bad really up to the listener, I suppose. At times I find it a bit tiresome, but that's just a personal preference. Additionally, I feel Bosman's crowning achievement in recording was her album Stop and Think, so I imagine I'm probably slightly biased already.

However, whatever qualms I may have, there is no denying that Bosman is a stunningly good singer. And when she wants it to be, emzini is an excellent album. The use of interludes - very isicathamiya-sounding, is a very nice touch, if all too short. Furthermore, the album's use of the vocal chorus is remarkably good. Bosman's main vocal lines tend to be very languid and slow on this album, which works on certain tracks - like Love Letter - quite well. The chorus' lines, by contrast, tend to be busier, more urgent, and more stacatto - a really striking contrast as you are listening, and quite welcome.

The first 10 tracks are for the most part enjoyable listens, but the album is at its best on the final two original tracks - 11 and 12. On track 11 - If You Don't Know Me By Now - Bosman reveals one of her strongest gifts: reinterpreting the American songbook. It's a unique gift, to be sure, but every time she covers an American piece, she breaths new life into the work - Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, God Bless the Child, and this track are all quite stunning. She really grasps how to get into these songs' guts, keep their respective essences, and then make them uniquely South African and uniquely her own.

On track 12, House of Rhythm, she lets loose, and lets the band let loose as well. This is an inspired choice, as the God-like Rob Watson is drumming on that track, and he takes this opportunity to shine. After the first eleven tracks, this comes as a breath of fresh air. The album is enjoyable, no argument there, but every track has the same production sheen to it, making them (not counting the interludes) a little more homogenous than I'd like. However, on House of Rhythm that all changes, and for the better. It's nice to hear her and the band having fun.

The closing two tracks - remixes of (ostensibly) House of Rhythm and Ukukhanya (track 5) are interesting choices for inclusion. I don't think the House of Rhythm remix sheds any new light on the song - and it was certainly dancable enough in its original mix. However, the Ukukhanya remix is excellent - a spacey, ethereal dance remix that's really enjoyable to listen to. One slight quibble - it's actually a remix of Track 8, Lover's Dance, not of Track 5. You'd think some sort of editor would notice?

Regardless, it's a fun album. Bosman has done better - I'm referring to Stop and Think here - but for fans, this will not disappoint. Its overall sound is a little too comfortable, and I'd like to hear her take some new risks in her next album. But again, the fans would probably disagree there.

For the curious, you can buy the album here at One World.