|Louis Moholo Moholo Quartet at Café Oto|
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2013. All Rights Reserved
Louis Moholo Moholo Quartet
(Café Oto, 20 October 2013; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)
Louis Moholo Moholo's new quartet - hand-picked musicians who have collaborated with him over the past 5 years - is an effervescent combination; dynamic to the very last fade of the very last note.
At Café Oto, with an appreciative Sunday night crowd, their début was drenched with heavyweight commitment. Jason Yarde on alto and soprano saxes, pianist Alexander Hawkins, on Café Oto's superb new Yamaha C3, and John Edwards, in a considered attack mode on his upright bass, threw themselves in to sparkling dialogue with Moholo, who drove the ensemble with majestic authority from behind the drum kit. His twinkling eyes, minimal gestures of direction and tightly constructed percussive groundwork demanded lightning responses, and passages of mature, inspired extemporisation - duly delivered with gusto and glee.
As Hawkins has kindly explained to us, "we only ever agree the first tune with Louis, and see where things take us from there", so the band had to be on their toes - and familiar with the Moholo repertoire. Hawkins, who has recently been playing lauded duets with the great drummer, was visibly on 'red alert' for any shifts in direction. In a zone combining the fluency of Abdullah Ibrahim and the 'out there', mystical approach of Lonnie Liston Smith, he kept on extracting melodic threads from an unrelenting pummeling of the keys, laced with delicate passages of restraint.
Yarde, at the top of his game, packed the punch of Pharaoh Sanders in his gracefully constructed, intensely concentrated phrasing, and took to just clicking the keys for a few seconds at one moment, with his sax held on to Edwards's bass - indicating that, playing with Moholo, percussion was integral to the message. Edwards, who, with Yarde, first recorded with Moholo in 2008, was effortlessly in to the groove, and added an active, capricious momentum to the melting pot.
As they picked out their path through material from Moholo's rich output from the 70s and 80s right up to the present, they dropped in a wonderfully deconstructed version of 'It's a Wonderful World', reinventing this unmistakable cornerstone with bubbling abandon and turned the gorgeous 'Lakutshon' Ilanga' (almost mistakable for Arlen's 'Over the Rainbow') inside out in their forensically creative explorations of its theme.
Moholo, quasi-godfather to his younger cohorts, oversaw the sets with a watchful and challenging eye, and with great modesty, keeping back from the limelight to allow them full rein, resulting in an evening of dramatic and emotional jazz of the highest quality.
Set list, as recalled by Alexander Hawkins:
Dikeledi Tsa Phelo
For The Blue Notes
Mark of Respect
Thank U 4 2Day
What A Wonderful World
B My Dear
You Ain't Gonna Know Me 'Cos You Think You Know Me