Recorded at Urban Sound Studios by Jock Loveband, June 2015
Additional recordings at Milestones Studios by Murray Anderson, October 2014
Mixed and mastered at Fersk Lyd by Giert Clausen, July 2015
Produced by Ivan Mazuze
Front cover is a detail of a painting by Sylva Karin Johansen
This recording is partly supported by FFUK and Komponistenes vederlagsfond
Jacob Young Plays Yamaha electric guitar and appears courtesy of ECM
Ubuntu /ʊˈbʊntʊ/ noun, South African (Xhosa, Zulu): a quality that includes the essential human virtues; compassion and humanity.
As with all excellent music, categorisation is most often superfluous. Yes, there are fine examples of Afro Cuban and full-bodied elements of World Jazz here, but from the very opening passages there is so much more. An overriding sense of joie de vivre, of adventure, energy and passion circulates freely throughout this album, which is propelled and steered by a group of world-class musicians.
«Inta Mutlhangela» opens the album with the universally loved sound of children at play. This paves the way for the sound of Ivan Mazuze’s sonorously satisfying alto saxophone. The band joins in on Ivan’s adaptation of a popular traditional song from Mozambique that is often performed at happy and important events.
We then head off on a truly delightful musical journey; an album encompassing styles and genres that serve to complement the depth and beauty of Ivan’s compositions and arrangements.
«Dancing with Malala» has a Corea-esque quality to its phrasing and is a great introduction to the effortless fluency of bassist, Peter Ndlala. Ivan switches to soprano sax for the uplifting title track, Ubuntu. Following his absorbing solo we meet virtuoso guitarist Jacob Young. On «My Two Northern Lights», Ivan and Jacob perform a reflective and evocative acoustic duet.
«The Republic of Dongo» (a fictitious country devised by author and global economist, Dambisa Moyo) is a head swaying, flowing ride. Ivan says that, “the album features and is inspired by various 6/8 time signatures from the African continent”. The track is impressively punctuated by the immaculate playing of master drummer/percussionist, Frank Paco.
«Water», that most precious of commodities, trickles through a contemplative track featuring Ivan and pianist, Michael Bloch. Kulhula is a charmingly relaxed piece with a compelling motif and driving bass riffs from the omnipresent Ndlala.
We’re back to 6/8 on «Malecon» with Ivan playing flute. There are endearing solos from Peter and from pianist, Michael Bloch.
A Short Piece is an inspired and empathic musical dialogue between Ivan and Michael. Like nouveau cuisine, it presents attractive and stimulating combinations and it leaves you wanting more! Next up is «Hamba Kahle» with its memorable theme, a vigorous groove produced by dynamic band interplay and some vibrant exchanges between Ivan and Jacob.
Ivan went to introduce his newly born baby girl to his grandmother. She and her neighbour are heard in jubilant chant during the intro to «Celebration». The track also features Ivan on various saxophones and Sidiki Camara on balafon, (a type of wooden xylophone much used by African musicians). Finally, we hear «Talking To Myself», a reflective ballad featuring the warmth and emotion of Ivan’s soprano playing and a lovely and sensitive solo by Michael.
The word ‘Ubuntu’ is often used in a philosophical sense to mean ‘the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity’. For Ivan, it means: “To give, without the expectation of receiving, thereby supporting the improvement of the individuals and communities around me”. He says that the album is inspired by African urban living and its development and also by some of southern Africa’s great contemporary composers, like the late Bheki Mseleku.
Ivan Mazuze personifies generosity of spirit on this album. There is a kind of benevolence and compassion about his work that lifts you, makes you smile and feel good inside. In the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Music is the universal language of mankind”.