Gloria Bosman: Emzini (2006)
Over the past decade, Gloria Bosman has risen to become one of South Africa's most prominent and successful jazz vocalists, mastering a blend of Afropop, R&B, gospel and straight-ahead jazz. Added to that, she is a powerhouse of a singer: think Miriam Makeba with extra chutzpah.
On Emzini Bosman does not stray too far from her tried-and-true formula, no doubt to the great pleasure of her fans. While for the most part the album offers enjoyable listening and few surprises, there are unquestionably moments which would compel even her detractors to stick around and listen.
Songs like "Uzowuzw'umoya, and "Indlala are standard Bosman fareenjoyable and catchy, featuring very strong chorus work, and stellar musicianship from the backing band. However, fascinating moments pop up in the a cappella interludes that Bosman includes in the albuma Zulu/R&B blend that is quite unique. These interludes accentuate the beginning and middle portions of the album, which are otherwise quite straightforward for Bosman.
Towards the end of the album, the music opens up and takes some new risks. The gospel organ work on "Ndifuna Wena Qha! combined with ethereal vocal chorus works beautifully, as does Bosman's cover of "If You Don't Know Me By Now (one of Bosman's greatest strengths is breathtaking re-interpretations of American standards). Most important, closing out the "standard portion of the album is "House of Rhythm, a high-energy burner that showcases the ever-amazing Rob Watson on drums.
Following that are two remixesone of "House of Rhythm which is not terribly interesting, as well as a wonderful ambient/house remix of "Ukukhanya (though this seems to be an error in listing, as the remixed song is actually "Lover's Dance ).
As always, Bosman's taste in side musicians is stellar: the above-mentioned Watson, bassist Concord Nkabinde, keyboardist Nqubeko Mbatha and others turn in excellent performances. Ultimately, Emzini is one of Bosman's stronger albums, containing some surprises for even long-time listeners, and it will certainly please her fans. For newcomers though, it might be prudent to first check out her 2002 Sheer Sound album Stop and Think, arguably her strongest showing.
Note: this album is available from One World on the web.
Track Listing: Uzowuzw'umoya; Isigqila Sothando; Interlude: Uyavimb'umama Lapha; Indlala; Ukukhanya; Interlude: Uhambile; Love Leter; Lovers' Dance; Ndifuna Wena Qha!; Lovers' Rendezvous; If You Don't Know Me By Now; House of Rhythm; House of Rhythm (Sticky Remix); Ukukhanya (Sticky Remix).
Personnel: Gloria Bosman: vocals; Nqubeko Mbatha: piano, organ; Johan Mthethwa: keyboards; Concord Nkabinde: bass; Zolile Bacela: guitar; Marlon Green: drums; Godfrey Mgcina: percussion; Asanda Bam: vocals; Khethiwe Sibeko: vocals; Sibusiso Motsoeneng: bass; Kwazi Shange: drums; Swazi Dlamini: vocals; Sibusiso Buthelezi: vocals; Sifiso Khanyile: vocals.