Molelekwa melts traditional African jazz and township sounds into California fashions, blends new age phrasing with pure jazz diligence on this debut CD. His intelligent, uncluttered arrangements mix instruments as diverse as subtle marimbas, synths and sax. Rhythmic counterpoint plays off against the elegance of traditional US jazz, with a slow marching doubling of piano, flute and quietly obedient drums... and then it all unexpectedly collapses into a fluid piano muse or sax solo. His keyboard style - lightly surefingered and full of smooth twists - is glue holding a fascinating construction together. You'll find yourself going, "Did you hear that? That moment?"
Pianist and composer Moses Taiwa Mololekwa was discovered in Jo'burg in 1993 and this album was released shortly afterwards. Depending on your taste, the arrangements may seem a little synthetic, echoing LA new age jazz - at moments even sleepily sentimental - compared to more mature and acoustic albums like Live at Fin de Siecle, or Genes and Spirits. Perhaps Finding One's Self isn't as consistent musically as it could be. It showcases promise rather than actually fulfilling it - pointing to many different musical paths that Molelekwa had the potential to follow to the end.
But the emotional power and melodic strength of the album make it worthwhile despite any stylistic messiness. Take a listen to the clip from "Mountain shade" (later revisited in a tighter and better performance on Live at Fin de Siecle in Nantes), where the ingredients for many more than one song are generously woven into a varied and touching piece.
Molelekwa doesn't indulge, though. Expressive impact is never sacrificed for the sake of experimental, self indulgent and confusing fiddling. This is tightly worked and highly disciplined stuff, the beauty of controlled virtuosity. Although the upbeat "jazziness" of the sound is tempered with sadness and restlessness, it's uplifting.
Finding One's Self bears careful repeat listening. The initial impression of softness and occasional cheesiness obscures Molelekwa's genius. But you don't have to be a jazz fundi to be moved, or a musical idiot to be impressed. - Jean Barker
WHAT OTHER REVIEWERS SAIDThis album pays its respects to South Africa's jazz past - but has its feet on the road to the future.- Gwen Ansell, Mail & GuardianMoses Molelekwa's music is an intricate, deeply hidden and powerful listening experience. Molelekwa is the missing piano link between the older jazz guard and the contemporary jazz pack... This long-awaited CD is composed of beautiful and mind-engaging pieces (and) provides hope that the fresher younger jazz vanguard will introduce an altogether new approach to the musical genre that jazz is.- Bongani Madondo Mayibuye, Journal of the ANCOne of the great things about Molelekwa's music is that, although it's jazz, there are plenty of tunes and they're memorable too. You're bound to find yourself humming along. - Keyboard ConnectionsListen to this CD and you'll constantly get glimpses of how good this player is, but it's not until the final two tracks that this boy really takes off, and not with any untoward pyrotechnics either. These tracks are simple, solid mainstream stuff, but stated with a subtle craftsmanship and feeling that left me elated and awe-struck: I kid you not. - Hi-fi World
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