Keith Tippett/Julie Tippetts/Louis Moholo-Moholo & Canto Generàl

Viva La Black Live at Ruvo
Ogun 020

South African Kwela meets British Jazz meets Italian Cabaletta – this CD celebrates Townships-style improvisation with a performance featuring a primal South African drummer, two sympathetic Brits and the 23-piece Canto Generàl Italian ensemble. Live at Ruvo is imposing since the Italian band members amplify the melodies as if their reference points are Soweto and Johannesburg rather than Sardinia and Genoa.

Propelled rhythmically by Louis Moholo-Moholo, sole survivor of those 1960s improvisers who fled Apartheid, cacophonous sound-stretching compositions by his band mates are among the session’s highpoints. Other memorable tunes, and all the conducting, come from advanced pianist Keith Tippett, whose larger bands mix British and South African improvisers. Vocalist Julie Tippetts moulds the six singers’ timbres to not only comfortably interact in fortissimo call-and-response with the other sections, but also to harmonize freedom chants and anthems.

Polyphonic and contrapuntal, stop-time and solid, and alternately hypnotic and bluesy, the tracks additionally highlight trumpeter Vito Motoli’s gaudy triplet-slurring; soprano saxophonist Roberto Ottaviano’s tremolo undulations; and trombonist Lauro Rossi’s flutter-tongued plunger work..

Lyrical soprano voices warble with plain song suggestion as they weave among staccato horn vibrations on “Cider Dance” and “A Song”, two sequential Tippett compositions that sum up the CD’s appeal. Cumulative organ chords from Livio Minafra shepherd the band’s gurgles and vibrations into a gentle finale. Meanwhile, on the former number, a crescendo of rubato brass tattoos and stop-time reed slurs are driven by the drummer to dissolve into a satisfyingly diminuendo.

— Ken Waxman

For Whole Note Vol. 13 #1