May 29, 2010

Carlo Mombelli & The Prisoners of Strange live in Moers 2010

The name of Carlo Mombelli's group was explained by the presenter before the concert: He said, Mombelli had played with big names of the South African music scene (like for instance Miriam Makeeba), but whenever he led his own groups, people felt them somehow strange. After a while the (mainstream) music business didn't want to produce or feature him anymore, so he became a prisoner of the label "strange", that had been stuck on him. It is important to stress that this story only works within a mainstream music business context - there's nothing strange to Mombelli's music in the context of Moers festival. The contrary is true: Within this Moers context his music sounded a little bit pop-oriented - which doesn't mean at all that it was bad music. The first and most obvious feature of the group's sound that attracted my attention was the lack of a harmony / chord instrument like guitar or piano. This was partly compensated by some synth-effects and loops triggered by Mombelli's bass and echos added to Marcus Wyatt's trumpet microphone. Furthermore Mombelli's way of playing the bass was often reminding of the Jaco Pastorius way - a way that needs to breathe freely and might be disturbed by chord instruments. I especially liked the overtone harmonics that he created with extended plucking or muting techniques on the bass strings. Justin Badenhorst's drumming was pertinent and Siya Makuzeni's singing very expressive - see a blogosphere appraisal of her skills at Free-quency.
And for Marcus Wyatt's trumpet playing I think I could use Kenny Wheeler as a reference point: just imagine a Kenny Wheeler who uses some of the above-mentioned electronic echo-processing techniques.
So much for the technical side of it. What made the set work so well was the spiritual side though. There was serenity flowing through it all the time. There were no extreme actions taken - they just didn't seem necessary -, yet still the musicians didn't avoid argument or to make a clear point. Sometime in the second half of the set Mombelli made some spoken statements too with a rather high and very tender voice. A voice you wouldn't associate with a bass man, but then again it made sense within the group's aesthetic. That was music to make people happy without blocking their ability of thinking. Music speaking to body and soul. Blogger Julia Grabsch loved it, too. Blogger Lutz Eitel didn't - so it goes (but his reference to Jon Hassell is true - he came to my mind as well).
After the show there was a rush from the audience area to the CD selling stand. It was a commercially smart move of Mombelli to tell people that the CD's not available in Europe yet.

There's a feature on South African jazz this week on the excellent Jazz Collection programme of public Swiss radio - it's downloadable (for four weeks at least - after that it can only be streamed, which is certainly also "downloadable" if you can handle streams) and there's a pdf sheet with info on the music played on the programme, all of it in German, but the music certainly speaks an international language. The programme also contains one piece of Mombelli and one piece of Marcus Wyatt.


ayu1234 said...

after several times that my machine turned into blank while reading your article, I forgot what I orginally wanted to say about this group. Certainly I know that it is naive commenting music with simply 'good' or 'not good', but I remember that I have once said that the music of this group is spiritually harmless.

ayu1234 said...

sorry for ending my last paragraph in such an abrupt fashion, because I didn't know when would my machine turning into blank again with its free will. Here are some more words concerning my feeling about this group, when my machine allows. from them, I saw a society without overwhelming power, no forces trooping into the land of other people.

ayu1234 said...

one sees understanding, generosity, tolerance, cooperation from the atmosphere built up with their music minds, an atmosphere which could provide a healthy and cozy living of human being, or even other beings. (who knows)