Andreas Loven – District Six
(Losen Records LOS 152-2. Review by Sebastian Scotney)
Jazz music has a tendency to be fleeting and ephemeral, but District Six, a new album from a quartet led by pianist Andreas Loven, is music captured in a happy moment which is now completely, and perhaps regrettably, gone for ever. A few weeks after having recorded the album last August in Cape Town, where he had lived for several years, the pianist moved back permanently to his native Norway.
As Leah Williams found out in her interview with Loven (LINK BELOW), he combines a Norwegian heritage and aesthetic, notably a huge inspiration from Tord Gustavsen, with a deep absorption of the South African heritage, and the Cape Town vibe, through having lived there, and become a part of the community of musicians.
The title of the CD, District Six marked an important anniversary, an ever-present dark moment in the collective memory of the Mother City. Fifty years ago this February, the Apartheid regime designated the district of Cape Town a Whites-only area, and forced 60,000 people to re-settle.
A review by the doyenne of South African jazz writing Gwen Ansell was drawn to what is perhaps the emotional heart of the album, the track African Piano. She describes in her review a special moment near the end of that track, where saxophonist Buddy Wells plays:
“In a spine-chilling moment at the end, Wells’s saxophone harmonics reach back far beyond that history, to the overtone singing of the Xhosa-speaking peoples and the bow music of the Khoi and San.”
For those of us without that heritage and background, there is simply a uniquely expressive use of the saxophone to be savoured and enjoyed. I don’t think I have ever heard the harmonic series on the saxophone being used as a means to such gentle expression. Indeed one of the most remarkable things about the album is how well the recording has caught Wells’ unique, and uniquely appealing tenor saxophone sound. He is a Cape Town-based musician is in his mid-forties, and really has a tone like no other player, and at the sensual level for the listener, just living in and loving his sound and vocabulary is enough to keep me very happy. He has an emotional range too, from calm to very excitable and angry, and can switch mood vividly, quickly, mercurially.
The album reveals Loven’s compositional talent in the Cape Town idiom. Fans of Abdullah Ibrahim, or of more recent pianists like Kyle Shepherd, will be completely on home territory. Another track Inside District Six, which happens to be Track 6, has that kind of riding grooving syncopation which Capetonians call goema (they are distictly reluctant to define it accurately/ musically). Drummer Clement Benny is given delightful free rein in several places, notably in the final open section of a tune called The Boiler. Bassist Romy Brauteseth anchors the Cape grooves of Loven’s compositions with authority, and even reinforces one of her bass lines, by doing what comes naturally to Capetonians – singing it.