McCoy Mrubata  - Face The Music




South Africa’s McCoy Mrubata plays tenor, alto and soprano sax and also flute.  He has toured the United States, the South Pacific, the Caribbean, Europe and Australia, with Lucky Dube. 

He’s also a producer and composer – he wrote (or co-wrote) every song on the CD.  In early 2002, McCoy participated in workshops arranged by the Danish Conservatory, held at Durban's BAT Centre.  This is where he met some of the musicians featured on "Face the Music". Pianist, Luyanda Madope, guitarist, Tokoloho Moeketsi, and percussionist Tlale Makhene were all participants in the same workshops. 

“Face the Music” is McCoy's 4th release on the Sheer Sound label. The first, "Tears of Joy", was nominated for an FNB SAMA award for best traditional jazz album, and was well received by fans, and fast became a favourite among jazz lovers. 

Wanna Talk About It? is bright and brassy and a very upbeat opener.  The doubled tenor sax and guitar on the melody is very jazzy.  In contrast, Mr. & Mrs. Adonis is a lovely, gentle, old-fashioned tune written in waltz time with layers of baritone, tenor and alto sax making this very special. 

The title track has that signature backbeat and clicking guitar that I now listen for on South African albums.  Jabu Magubane’s wacky trombone solo is going to make you dance!  Luyanda Madope’s lazy piano riff sets the tone for the jazzy and complex Icamagu Livumile.  This piece is relaxing yet somehow grows in intensity as Mrubata blows like his life depended on it. 

The piano also leads into the latin-tinged (one of my favourite expressions…) Merton’s Place.  The gentle rhythm section leaves a lot of space for the lovely tenor sax soloing and the dreamy flugelhorn of Marcus Wyatt.  This is a gem – my favourite track.  More!  Kwalanga opens with solo sax and a half-bluesy, half-sinister atmosphere.  It moves into a swinging, sassy riff and to a crazy close. 

Ntuthu’s Theme doubles up Mrubata’s tenor and Prince Lengoasa’s lovely flugelhorn.  The understated drums and warm, blooming acoustic bass combine to make this melodic song one that I just don’t want to end.  Played anywhere in the world, this would be accepted as good jazz – definitely in my living room!  Things get funky on Venomous Toads.  Now, this song is a real surprise: labelmate Paul Hanmer plays up a storm on Fender Rhodes and the flying rimshots have a great, almost trance, feel.  Mlungisi Gegana’s bass is very busy here too.  It’s technically demanding but Mrubata’s warm, soothing flute keeps calling you back… 

Raw Material starts like some kind of New Orleans funeral procession.  Then it opens out into a much sunnier 5/4 jam.  For my taste this is maybe too improvisational but all of the players’ skills are on show.  Tokoloho Moeketsi – nice semi-acoustic guitar! 

If you think you wouldn’t like South African music, try to hear this CD whose title track is dedicated to you.  It borrows from a number of musical traditions: jazz, latin and funk but remains true to its roots.  Some of the music is complex but it never sounds over-produced. 

This is a journey well worth taking…


Sheer Sound Records – cat no. SSCD 090 – Producer McCoy Mrubata