tue 18/06/2024

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


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters