Sheer All Stars - Live @ The Blues Room

First of all, contemporary jazz is alive and well according to the vibrant, yet uncompromising sounds of the Sheer All Stars from South Africa. Yes, "Sheer Sound plans to incorporate the most talented jazz musicians in South Africa as a working group" says the record label. It appears that they've managed to accomplish their goal with the resonating sounds of the Sheer All Stars since their inception back in 1996.

The opening piece composed by pianist Paul Hanmer titled "Meeting of The Women" is an engaging nine minute jam session that properly sets the pace for the entire album. The interplay between the soloists leaves you in awe wondering why in the world did cjazz ever remove itself from this intimate setting of quality musicianship on records in the first place.

Next up comes "Meeting Point", written by bassist Sipho Gumede. This composition reminds me of autumn, possibly late September. It's lyrical, yet through the transitions you evolve mesmerized by the exchanging of ideas between the musicians. Thought provoking in it's own right "Meeting Point" leaves you in a tranquil state of reverie.

At the three spot there's "Sugar Shake" composed by guitarist Errol Dyer. His guitar phrasing reminds me somewhat of South African native Jonathan Butler. However, this track showcases the cohesiveness of this talented ensemble. The Butler like guitar licks opens this track into a recognizable South African flavor. The voicings of saxophonist McCoy Mrubata echoes clearly that you're about to have a good time.

"Hymn for the Ballies" is reminiscent of a song that you've heard somewhere before. Paul Hanmer the group's pianist penned this track. The underlying instrumentation has a Yellowjackets feel to it, it's haunting midtempo romp relentlessly grooves like nobodies business. The exchanging of solos demonstrates the effectiveness that time spent in the woodshed has its rewards.

Track five "Milagre" is another infectious midtempo number that suggests a new beginning has arrived, featuring the talented Paul Hanmer on piano. The impressive interplay between Hanmer and saxman Mrubata emerge into something special, delivering sweet melodic grooves with little effort.

"Fula" comes in at the sixth spot with intensity, the integrity and virtuosity that confirms they've come too play. Contemporary jazz aficionados will adore this stellar performance by Sheer All Stars. Saxophonist Mrubata should be proud of this wonderfully composed piece, a satisfying script of artistry at its best.

Guitarist Errol Dyer reveals once again that he's got a knack for composing songs that make you smile, this track reminds me of the first time that I set foot on the Caribbean soil of St. Croix, VI. "Langery" the song title is spirited, clever, with brilliant African flavors that enhances their culture woven into this promising composition.

The point of departure has arrived with the closing piece written by the groups bassist Sipho Gumede titled "Alone In A Strange Place", Gumede appears to be the sentimental one of the group here. Sipho has comprised another magical moment that can only compliment this accessible collection of songs.

Sheer All Stars has brilliantly compiled a sophisticated blend of compositions performed with the highest quality of musicianship. South Africa and Sheer Sound, I applaud your efforts to deliver this masterpiece. This recording by the "Sheer All Stars" is essential for those of you that savor a taste of jazz with a twist of world music flavors!