Tumi Mogorosi ‘Project ELO’ LP/CD/Dig (Jazzman) 4/5

tumi-mogorosiLondon-based specialist label Jazzman does not only unearth some of the rarest jazz from the past, but equally understands the educational aspect of its unfolding and increasingly impressive portfolio, and with this in mind has released an excellent debut recording from a young South African drummer who has clearly taken on board the political and social concerns of African-American musicians from the mid-late 1960s. Born in 1987 and having studied music while at university in Pretoria, Tumi Mogorosi has been influenced by the likes of Max Roach, Archie Shepp and Elvin Jones as well as from a South African perspective Louis Moholo-Moholo and the Blue Notes. This explains why the recording has far more of an American flavour to it than one might expect, save for the gospel vocals, though even these are rooted in a tradition that is deeply embedded on both sides of the Atlantic. The overall sound is sparse with the absence of any keyboard freeing up the music. A piece devoted to Mogorosi’s school teacher, ‘Thahozile Queen Mother’ is a highlight the some fine vocals in the lineage of Abbey Lincoln here while both the nine minute plus ‘Princess Gibi’ and the passionate ‘Slaves Emancipation’ impress and speak volumes of a fully committed musician. The six piece band comprises a three pronged horn section with the tenor saxophonist coming across as a Jan Garbarek acolyte and a melodic guitar undercurrent which works especially well as a counterpoint to the ensemble voicings. If in parts the numbers are slightly over long, with experience and growing maturity as a composer, this can certainly be rectified in future albums.

Tim Stenhouse