Carlo crushes Kesivan

Carlo-Mombelli526It was a CD borrowed from the Fish Hoek library that got me to Carlo Mombelli’s gig at DSG last night.

As much as I love jazz and believe our musicians are at the cutting edge of the form, I’m ashamed to admit my knowledge of the individual players is less expansive that I’d like. Then when I heard in that 2006 recording with Johnny Fourie and Kevin Gibson how Carlo stroked those bass notes like a lover tracing goosebumps, I knew I had to see him live at the first opportunity.

That opportunity didn’t take long to arise, with Carlo’s name popping out at me in the National Arts Festival programme just days after becoming entranced with the way his gentle touch reverberated those strings.

But that CD was recorded almost a decade ago and Carlo has progressed since then. On stage at the Standard Bank Jazz Festival as Carlo Mombelli and the Storytellers, flanked by Kyle Shepherd on piano and Kesivan Naidoo on drums, with Mbuso Khoza taking care of vocals that soared even as they vibrated with echoes of Carlo’s bass, it was immediately apparent he had moved with the times.

The cutting edge appears to be the incorporation of electronica – loops and feedback – as a sort of rhythm section, freeing all musicians to play lead and in so doing opening up new vistas while remaining true to the evolutionary roots of jazz in southern Africa.

It was also evident Carlo had not lost his penchant for producing mellow resonance from his instrument – no twanging here – even while he made it cry and made it wail.

Although the Standard Bank presenter warned us that Kyle might fall off his piano stool during the gig as he was suffering jetlag after a flight from Canada, it was Kesivan who fell over.

Despite looking like such a genial oke, Carlo pushed his fellow musicians to the limit, twisting his loops on beyond the comfort zone, inverting time as he played response to his own warped notes. Kyle managed to keep it all in but Kesivan crashed out on the last number after conjuring up electric thunderstorms, eventually getting up and disappearing into the wings for a brief period before returning to desperately try again.

It happens. That it can happen is one of the great things about watching jazz of this calibre. There is no holding back, fully committed, every muscian is all in and there’s always the danger of shooting your load too soon. It was unmitigated theatre. It was beautiful to watch.

Do not miss catching a couple of jazz gigs, these guys are all on top of their world.

–Steve Kretzmann

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