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July/August 2002

Martin Fonde Oktemble/Ernst Reijseger
Ere Ibeji
Bvhaast Records

The arrangements on Ere Ibeji (Bvhaast), the latest CD by pianist Martin Fondse's Oktemble, are lovely-full of silken reed passages and warm brass lines. Big surprise: reedist Michael Moore turns up again, along with former ICP cellist Ernst Reijseger, but this group plays things much straighter. The album is named after a sacred Yoruban twins figure, and "Abiku" features the smooth guest vocalist Louis Mhlanga singing the poem of the same name by the Nigerian writer Wole Soyinka, but when Fondse's writing reveals an African influence it sounds more like kwela, the rollicking South African style that infects a fair amount of Dutch jazz, than the music of western Africa. It's a rather mannered album; Fondse puts great care into the writing and arrangements, but little space is given to soloists, and when it is, it usually sounds fastidious and overly pretty. If most good Dutch jazz has the edgy immediacy of the streets, then Fonsde sounds like he's writing for a greenhouse on a Sunday afternoon.

Originally published in July/August 2002
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