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Asher Gamedze Dialectic Soul On the Corner

South Africa has been responsible for some of the most forward-thinking jazz of recent years. This is largely the work of experimental Johannesburg label Mushroom Hour Half Hour, whose roster of artists including free jazz collective SPAZA and duo Dumama and Kechou have helped establish a discography of uncompromising and emotive improvisations. Cape Town-based drummer Asher Gamedze continues in this lineage with his spiritual, jazz-inflected debut LP Dialectic Soul.

Dialectics, the idea of two opposing arguments working in concert, has much in common with the loose and at times contradictory arrangements of spiritual jazz, pitting instrumentalists’ individual expressions seemingly against one another within the unfurling structure of the song. Gamedze harnesses this tension perfectly, opening with his Emergence Suite, the atonal harmonies of Antithesis and shrieking exultations of Buddy Wells’ tenor sax on Thesis before reaching the oceanic calm of ballad Siyabulela, which references the tranquility of fellow countryman Abdullah Ibrahim’s work.

The uplifting Ibrahim references continue on the anthemic Hope in Azania – a reflection of Ibrahim’s hopeful apartheid-era hit Mannenberg – before reaching the chaotic breakdown of Outro. By weaving these flashes of history through the textural impressionism of his drumming and fellow band members’ forceful soloing, Gamedze acknowledges his respect for the past while dismantling its hold on the present. This push and pull makes Dialectic Soul a challenging listen, but one that continues to push forward South Africa’s new jazz sound.