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November 2002

Zim Ngqawana
Zimphonic Suites
Sheer Sound

The connection between South African music and jazz is stronger than generally acknowledged. Abdullah Ibrahim is the best-known veteran of the South African musicians who have found a natural affinity for jazz, infusing swing with his country's rhythmic folk styles. Similar cultural ties, and a couple of Ibrahim's compositions, are explored on saxophonist/multi-instrumentalist Zim Ngqawana's Zimphonic Suites (Sheer Sound). Ngqawana, who was born in 1959 and previously heard with Ingoma, is featured in a lean and poetic setting on this, the second album under his own name. Zimphonic Suites is a collection of soulful tunes culled into larger groupings, as in "Abaphantsi (Ancestry Suite)," "Intlombe Variations" and "Ballroom Dance Suite." Pianist Andile Yenana has a rolling, engaging touch that echoes Ibrahim's percussive style, and Ngqawana mixes up instrumental textures, switch-hitting from saxes and flutes to harmonica, vocals and, occasionally, bicycle bells. Sometimes celebratory, sometimes introspective and always with a cyclical rhythmic imperative, the album handily blurs stylistic boundaries.

Originally published in November 2002
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