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Bakithi Kumalo: Transmigration

Bakithi Kumalo

Bass is the new guitar. Or you might think so with the many lead-bass records offered these days by the likes of Wayman Tisdale, Brian Bromberg, the Braxton Brothers and Michael Manson. Of course, Jaco Pastorius and Stanley Clarke kick-started the movement many years ago, but lately it seems like the bass is no longer simply an ax used to secure the bottom end.

The South African bassist Bakithi Kumalo played on Paul Simon’s landmark Graceland project and has since performed with Chaka Khan, Chris Botti, Gloria Estefan, Mickey Hart and many others. With his third solo CD, Kumalo-who also handles keys and percussion and even throws down some rock-guitar solos on “Make Me Smile”-proves he’s adept at the kind of melodic smooth jazz played by his contemporaries. “Twilight Fire” and “Looking Forward” are top-notch pop-jazz tunes, the latter evoking the spirit and style of guitarist Jonathan Butler. Funk and Kumalo’s vocalese is blended on “Step by Step,” while vocalist Penny Ford gives “Only Your Love” a mid-1970s Chaka Khan vibe.

But Kumalo doesn’t totally give himself over to easy listening. The CD’s final three tunes include a swinging jazz-trio number, a frantic, experimental piece and a revisiting of “Graceland”-a tour de force where Kumalo handles bass, flutes, guitar and a number of percussion instruments, including the djembe.

Originally Published