COMPOSERS: Alan Skidmore
PERFORMER: Skidmore (ss, ts), Steve Melling (p), Colin Towns (ky), Arnie Somogyi (b), Gary Husband (d); Amampondo: Dizu Zungula Plaatjies, Simpawe Matole, Mandla Lande, Nkululeko Ludonga, Zandisile Mbizela, Mzwandile Qotoyi (v, perc) & Madosini Manqineni (mouth bow
CATALOGUE NO: PVC 1018 (distr. 01227 711008)
Alan Skidmore, after a four-decade career in which he has contributed his gutsy yet surprisingly lyrical tenor sound to the music of everyone from Elvin Jones and George Gruntz to various European big bands and Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath, has recently begun to receive the attention he so richly deserves.
Last year, Miles Music issued a collection of ballads, After the Rain, setting Skidmore’s powerful but sensitive playing to arrangements by Colin Towns and others; now, following up on a brief 1994 collaboration with South African vocal/percussion group Amampondo, he has indulged what he himself describes as a "passion" for African drumming with this richly varied but consistently invigorating album.
Like his great inspiration, John Coltrane, Skidmore not only infuses his music with an intense spirituality, but is also constantly on the lookout for sympathetic musical settings based in non-jazz traditions, and in Amampondo’s lively and affecting vocal chants and subtle percussive effects, he has found a near-perfect foil for both his sinewy, turbulent tenor work and his more reflective side.
With the South Africans’ power and skill effectively complemented by a first-class UK rhythm section, this wholly enjoyable, instantly accessible album is yet another example of the superb, original music that can result from the sort of collaborations between South African and jazz traditions pioneered by Chris McGregor, Dudu Pukwana et al. in the 1960s, and still to be heard today in the music of the likes of Louis Moholo, Ntshuks Bonga and Mervyn Africa. Chris Parker