Borderless New Music by Nduduzo Makhathini, Chano Dominguez, Mareike Wiening and More

Nov 4, 2019

Take Five goes international this week, with artists from South Africa, Germany, Cuba, Spain, Israel and the UK.

Nduduzo Makhathini, “Yehlisan'uMoya”

Pianist and composer Nduduzo Makhathini is far from a new arrival on the scene: he has eight albums to his name, and stands within the first rank of South African jazz pianists. But he’s poised to make a broader impression now that he has signed to Blue Note, which will release his album Modes of Communication: Letters from the Underworlds next spring.

The album sprawls across a range of sounds, with Makhathini often less interested in commanding the spotlight than in shaping the flow. His ensemble includes a lone American, alto saxophonist Logan Richardson, alongside South African talent like drummer Ayanda Sikade and trumpeter Ndabo Zulu. On a welcoming invocation, “Yehlisan'uMoya” (“Spirit Come Down”), the band is joined by vocalist Omagugu Makhathini — Nduduzo’s wife, and his partner in the South African label Gundu Entertainment.

Makhathini has made his way to New York a few times in recent years, as a member of Shabaka and the Ancestors and as a featured artist on the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra’s season-opening concert The South African Songbook. (One day after that concert, he talked to Phil Freeman for the Burning Ambulance podcast. He also spoke with WBGO’s Simon Rentner, who will feature that conversation on a forthcoming edition of The Checkout.)

Chano Domínguez and Hadar Noiberg, “Carrusel”

Chano Domínguez is a celebrated pianist from Spain, and Hadar Noiberg is an accomplished flutist from Israel. But their collaboration took hold in Brooklyn, where both artists now reside. And their sparkling duo album — Paramus, due out on Sunnyside this Friday — was named after the New Jersey borough where it was recorded. Its repertory includes songs by Paco de Lucía and Egberto Gismonti, but largely consists of songs by Domínguez, who embraced the notion of duologue.


“Carrusel,” which has its exclusive premiere here, is a spectacular case in point. With brisk parlor rhythm and a lively staccato melody, it suggests an organic meeting point between flamenco and choro. Noiberg’s flute solo is impeccably dashing, and Domínguez keeps the entire contraption humming.

Mareike Wiening, “Metropolis Paradise”

In the ongoing conversation about best debut album of the year, I hope due consideration goes to drummer Mareike Wiening, whose Metropolis Paradise was just released on Greenleaf Music. The album, a first full-length effort for Wiening (pronounced “VEE-ning”), puts her at the helm of a mostly New York band, with Rich Perry on tenor saxophone, Dan Tepfer on piano and Alex Goodman on guitar. Holding down the bass chair is Johannes Felscher, who like Wiening hails from Germany, and appeared on Crosswalk, her 2014 EP.

Every piece on Metropolis Paradise is a Wiening original, and they cover an appealing range of style — from Brad Mehldau-esque waltzes (“For a Good Day”) to knotty polyrhythmic workouts (“Misconception”). The title track inhabits a dreamy middle space, with wafting arpeggios and a subtly irregular pulse. Listen for a beautiful series of exchanges between Tepfer and Goodman, beginning just before the two-minute mark, followed by a calmly assured Perry solo.

Mareike Weining performs an album-release show on Tuesday at the Jazz Gallery.

Roberto Fonseca, “La Llamada”

Cuban pianist and composer Roberto Fonseca has been a force to reckon with since he was a teenager, and it has been 20 years since he released his first album. His latest, Yesun, is a supremely assured statement that takes the Afro-Cuban stamp on modern jazz as a matter of settled fact.

The album begins with a track called “La Llamada,” featuring wordless vocals by the Cuban a cappella group Gema 4. There’s a welcoming ease to the melody, and an unhurried feeling in the groove — though Fonseca makes sure that the music pulls you forward. He isn’t showing his hand just yet: Yesun is a journey, he seems to be saying, on which we’ve only just embarked.

Emma-Jean Thackray, “Too Shy”

A few weeks ago, I caught the tail end of Emma-Jean Thackray’s set at the Mondriaan Jazz Festival in The Hague. She stood at the center of the stage with her trumpet, deep in concentration, her sound projecting like a hard, clear beam through a swirl of fog. It was just a taste of what this London-based artist is about — not only as a brass player but also a producer, a beatmaker and a vocalist.


If you don’t know Thackray from her breakout 2016 release Walrus, there’s still a chance you’ve heard her — via Makaya McCraven’s 2018 album Where We Come From (CHICAGOxLONDON Mixtape). One track on that compilation is a spliced portion of a house-flavored Thackray composition, “Too Shy.” Now International Anthem and Total Refreshment Centre are releasing a limited-edition 12” record with the full track, which runs a minute longer than the previous edit. (Be sure to listen all the way through: the track may seem to end around 3:30, but then a downtempo coda fades up in the mix.)