Just laying down a few tunes

2011-07-29 13:15

To describe the process of recording his latest album, jazz trumpeter Marcus Wyatt doesn’t mince his words, saying with a chuckle: “.  .  . it was f*****g horrible, man.” He has since titled the new album ZAR.

As we sit for tea at an eatery in Melville, Joburg, Wyatt is quick to joke that “it has nothing to do with that sushi guy who owns a night club [of the same name]”.

He says he wasn’t aware of that connection when choosing the name.

The horror of making the CD came from the recording glitches. It was taped over two days at M5 studios at the SABC complex in Auckland Park.

“And it’s really not a very good place to record, because some of the gear doesn’t work,” Wyatt contends.

The trumpeter adds that they didn’t get a single note from the first day of recording. About the second and final day of work, he says the sounds were bleeding through and the different channels weren’t properly separated.

“I felt so bad afterwards because I thought I had just thrown away money, and I believed that I wasn’t going to use the stuff,” he recalls.

But that was early December, before Wyatt and his partner took a pleasure drive across the country – a holiday road trip of sorts.

He says: “We spent Christmas out in the Karoo meeting people in small towns. It was great . . . this country is huge.”

The trip helped. As he says, when he listened to the tapes afterwards they didn’t sound that bad. But a fresh point of view is not all he brought back from that journey.

All the pictures in the sleeve design were shot on the road.

“Photography is something I dig,” he says. His photos were recently published in Kulula.com’s in-flight magazine.

The new album also marks a return to a classic quartet format, something akin to what he did on his 2000 release Gathering, and two years later on Africans In Space.

This was before projects with his larger band, Language 12, which explored a more electronic and experimental sound.

ZAR brings together “a bad-ass rhythm section”, Prince Bulo on bass, Justin Badenhorst on drums and the incredible Afrikah Mkhize on keys and piano.

Mkhize is in fact an alumni of Wyatt’s debut album as band leader. Though he came on board for ZAR as a session musician, he joined the band in March at its regular gig at Wish, a bar lounge in Melville.

The other two have been around since Language 12.

About ZAR, Wyatt says: “It wasn’t meant to be cutting edge, I just wanted to put down some tunes.” And it comes across that way: light but still intense.

It opens with a piece titled Lindiwe, in which the solo trumpet introduces a theme for a few bars before it is developed into full colour by the band.

They then merge a Gouma sound of creole Cape-folk music, with a sound familiar to the Gauteng jazz experience.
The horn tone stays warm and mid-range to reflect Wyatt’s own restrained manner.

He does not try to “saturate the listener with the sound of the trumpet”, so his tone and timbre stay sedate and calculated throughout.

On Goodbye Sunday, he laments the waning number of jazz gigs in Joburg. It was composed after the band was fired from a popular club where they held a regular date.

So all the 40-year-old jazzman’s experiences – from his three years in the navy band to his time with Carlo Mombelli’s Prisoners of Strange – are encapsulated in ZAR. Even the future is highlighted here, as Wyatt edges towards a more pared back sound. He promises: “The next one will be a trio album.”

» Catch the Marcus Wyatt Quartet live every Wednesday night at Wish, 7th Street, Melville, Joburg


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