Nduduzo Makhathini: uNomkhubulwane review – entrancing South African jazz

(Blue Note)
This three-movement album from pianist and shaman Nduduzo Makhathini’s trio combines blues, bop and folk song to transcendental effect

The title of this third Blue Note release from South African pianist Nduduzo Makhathini is the name of a Zulu goddess, “a regulator of nature, light and fertility”. It’s a name that isn’t evoked lightly – Makhathini, aside from being a startlingly original pianist, is a fully initiated sangoma, a shaman and healer, and his quest is spiritual.

His previous two albums, since landing on Blue Note in 2020, have been horn-heavy, suffused with the ecstatic spirit of 1960s Coltrane. Here he brings a lighter touch, playing as a trio alongside Cuban-born drummer Francisco Mela and bassist Zwelakhe-Duma Bell le Pere, an American of South African descent. The album is no less entrancing than its predecessors, its 11 tracks arranged as a three-part movement, moving from Libations to Water Spirits to Inner Attainment.

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