tue 29/11/2022

Album: Xhosa Cole - Ibeji | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Xhosa Cole - Ibeji

Album: Xhosa Cole - Ibeji

UK jazzer takes a stylistic left turn with an album of saxophone and percussion duets

Ibeji: great music, excessive explanation

“For life to exist, we need rhythm” announces Ian Parmel on the opening track of rising UK jazz saxophonist Xhosa Cole’s sophomore album. This is a view that Xhosa has taken to heart – for while his debut album was awash with echoes of John Coltrane’s classic hard bop sounds, Ibeji comprises a collection of saxophone and percussion collaborations with seven separate drummers, which explore West African beats and musical flavours through a jazz lens.

“Andy’s Shuffle” features Jason Brown’s jumpy beats twisting and turning around Cole’s riffing, Adriano Adewale brings a hip-swinging groove to “Dance of the Ancestra”, while Mark Sanders’ minimalist percussion backs a plaintive and laidback melody on “Our Search For”. And it certainly has a wider range of sounds and influences than Know Them, Know Us, especially on “Double Displacement”, where Corey Mwamba’s experimental electronics bring something completely unexpected to Cole’s sound.

However, Ibeji is also an album that slips a bit uncomfortably into the realm of edutainment, as between each tune there is one or even two tracks of commentary, comprising monologues about subjects such as the nature of improvisation, the influence of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the mischievousness of Anansi the Spider in African and Caribbean folklore. Initially, this is quite interesting and informative, but these pieces don’t really stand up to repeated listening and might have been better bunched together on a separate disc away from the music, or just used as sleeve notes on the album cover. Nevertheless, when Cole and his beat makers concentrate on the tunes, their music is a real joy to behold.

As yet, there are only two November dates planned to promote this album – at the London Jazz Festival and then at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall. On this evidence, these performances really promise to be mind-blowing celebrations of improvised music.

A collection of saxophone and percussion collaborations with seven separate drummers explore West African beats and musical flavours

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