Monday, November 20, 2006

City Center Follow Up

Okay, so Abdullah Ibrahim and Hugh Masekela didn't share the stage, which is too bad - granted though, Masekela made a very touching point of reference to Abdullah Ibrahim during his set.

The Soweto String Quartet's US concert debut went quite well - performing with the singer Khanyo - a Sarafina alumna. The back-up music for them was canned, which was too bad, but they sounded great on their solo piece, and provided very subtle tasteful back-up to Khanyo (who, might I add, is one damn good singer).

Abdullah Ibrahim did a beautiful solo set that was a very special experience to those of us in the audience who like his music (which, judging by the crowd's reaction, was most of us). Without his trio, he filled the space more with fluid runs in his playing, and even threw in some of the dissonance work that marked his playing in the 1960s.

Side note: I'd like to also take this opportunity to threaten great harm to the jerks in the audience who couldn't SILENCE THEIR DAMN PHONES - especially after the host specially came on before Ibrahim's set to ask that everyone switch off their phones. During his 35-minute set: three cell phone rings. Thanks a lot, guys.

Hugh Masekela's band ultimately seemed a bit underpowered, but had great moments, largely due to his inclusion of bassist Bakithi Khumalo, keyboardist Tony Cedras, and most important, saxophonist Morris Goldberg. Goldberg's saxophone is the best counterpart to Masekela's horn - if you don't believe me, check it out on this album.

All-in-all, a fine evening of music! I'll be posting a review on AAJ soon.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Hugh Masekela, Abdullah Ibrahim, and the Soweto String Quartet at City Center

Hi everyone,

I'll be reviewing this concert, entitled The Sounds of South Africa taking place tomorrow night at the City Center (follow the above link if you're curious). It should be interesting - Harry Belafonte is hosting, with Hugh Masekela as the frontline billing.

However, of note is the mentions of Abdullah Ibrahim and of the Soweto String Quartet as "guest artists." Does this mean they'll be onstage playing with Hugh? Perhaps we'll get a two-person reunion of the Jazz Epistles? It would be pretty fascinating, given how stylistically different Hugh and Abdullah have become in comparison to one another (granted, they always had been different...)

The other fun point is the inclusion of the Soweto String Quartet in this concert. They're not well-known to Americans, but if you heard Vusi Mahlasela's album The Voice, then you heard the group on the track "Weeping."

This concert tomorrow is their US Concert Debut, which is very exciting. The group's sound tends away from classical repertory (though they do a nice performance of Dvorak's "Songs My Mother Taught Me" on their album Renaissance). Instead, they like to cover classic South African songs like "Imbube," or "Ntyilo Ntyilo," and perform their own compositions, which tend to rely heavily on the bouncy kwela rhythm. They're not everyone's cup of tea, but I find them to be a great deal of fun. Their newest album, Plays Gospel, is quite lovely, but I personally love their third album Millenium.

So if you find yourself in New York, this should be an interesting concert, especially if the three groups find themselves onstage playing together. However, even if it's all separate performances, it should be a pretty solid evening. Abdullah has been doing consistently excellent work of late, Hugh sounded very strong earlier this year at SOB's, and the Soweto String Quartet will be a new experience for most Americans.