Asher Gamedze, “Dialectic Soul”
By Jesse Locke · July 06, 2020 Merch for this release:
2 x Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD), Vinyl LP

Physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional agility are the conceptual keys to understanding the debut album from drummer Asher Gamedze. Many listeners were introduced to the South African musician by his contributions to Angel Bat Dawid’s 2019 release, The Oracle, where Gamedze stretches out across 15 minutes in a duet with the clarinetist and singer on the song “Cape Town.” On this equally sprawling double LP, the drummer leads his own band through a series of mournful and vibrantly melodic spiritual jazz compositions underpinned with philosophical models for enduring resistance against colonialism.

Dialectic Soul was recorded live in the studio over two days, with Gamedze joined by bassist Thembinkosi Mavimbela, tenor saxophonist Buddy Wells, and trumpet player Robin Fassie-Kock. Their lithe interplay is introduced on the three-part “State of Emergence Suite,” as the drummer’s tumbling fills set the stage for spotlighted moments from each instrumentalist. The quartet continue to showcase their versatility on the searching solos of “Eternality” and celebratory sound of “Hope In Azania,” named for what Gamedze describes in his liner notes as “an imagined liberated South Africa.” The drummer’s voice appears on “Interregnum,” where he recites his original short story about a young child discovering the historical task to carry on the traditions of their ancestors. Dialectic Soul’s most moving passage is “Siyabulela,” a reworked gospel song that finds the group slowing its pace to a gentle sway as singer Nono Nkoane adds her gorgeous vocals to the meditative celebration of life. It may be sad, and a moment to pause on, but Gamedze is quick to point out in the closing words from his album notes that the group can’t rest for long: “The soul is dialectic. Motion is imperative. We keep moving.”

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