Much powerful and resonant music has emanated from South Africa and, in part due to the reprehensible cultural scatter and exile caused by apartheid, only occasionally has the world paid enough attention.
The blend of bittersweet serenity, melancholy and inner-mounting-flame in the oeuvres of Abdullah Ibrahim and Bheki Mseleku — back-filtered through the transatlantic diaspora and Ellington, Monk and McCoy Tyner — has been absorbed by Nduduzo Makhathini, who has emerged over the course of 10 leader albums into a perennially questing, paradoxically grounded force. His sophomore album on Blue Note, In the Spirit of Ntu, strives to distill ‘spiritual essence’ and cleave closer to universal truths. A philosopher wont to deliver articulate thesis statements between bouts at the piano, Makhathini is, onstage and in person, uncommonly warm and receptive.
His first Blindfold Test mixed curveballs and shoe-ins at the Detroit Jazz Festival, where he triumphantly culminated a U.S. tour with drummer Francisco Mela and bassist Zwelakhe-Duma Bell le Pere.