The great SA label Mushroom Hour Half Hour, who first caught my attention with the release in 2020 of the fascinating project album 'Buffering juju’ by Cape Town-based artists Dumama and Kechou, brought us this year UMDALI, the first album as a bandleader by South African trombonist, multi-instrumentalist and painter Malcom Jiyane.
Recorded in Johannesburg with a 9-piece ensemble of musicians mostly based around Soweto’s jamming scene, the album is of a deep, spiritual mould, delving deep into past traumas and tragedies, both of the personal and collective kinds, while offering a deep longing for hope and appetite for life. The music’s unhurried pace is key UMDALI, its expansive space giving room to all musicians from the Tree-O to improvise around familiar themes, traditions and fresh ideas. The atmosphere and creative energy on display is a joy to dive in, making for a perfect deep and immersive Sunday morning listen.
From the Hancock referencing ‘Umkhumbi kaMa’ (an ode to all mothers) to the poignant 'Life Esidimeni’, one can only be drawn into the subtle depth and confidence oozing from the ensemble. The set slowly builds towards ’Moshe’ the centrepiece of the album, dedicated to the late prodigal pianist and stellar composer Taiwa Moses Molelekwa (whose seminal Genes and Spirits LP was recently reissued by Matsuli Music).
Like the music, the pressing is on the quiet side but is dynamic enough to reveal all the depth and nuances of UMDALI, a majestic and spellbinding achievement which will surely become a landmark South African jazz album.