Live Reviews: Bakithi Kumalo

Vibrato Grill, Jazz, Etc.  Beverly Hills, CA

Contact: [email protected]

Web: bakithikumalobass.com

Players: Bakithi Kumalo, bass, vocals; Ron DeJesus, guitar; Dan Boissy, horns; Tony Moore, drums; Munyungo Jackson, percussion; Hans Zermuehlen, keyboards

Material: Celebrating the release of his first solo album after more than four decades of music, bassist Bakithi Kumalo delivered a spellbinding, energetic show of originals written around the stories along his musical journey to date. The new songs include elements of ambient, funk, jazz, Latin and African music and––as masters of their craft––the sextet on stage had an incredible ease of energy and skilled delivery that combined for a captivating performance.

Musicianship: Wayne Shorter cover, “Footprints,” highlighted the incredible level of musical sensitivity and strength of the group as they supported a delicious rotation of jazz solos. Dan Boissy added great saxophone licks and growls (especially in “Green Onions”), Tony Moore demonstrated exquisite drum control (“Nice Day” and “Hottentot”), and Ron DeJesus added superb guitar riffs and solos (“Nice Day” and “Root Down and Get It”). There were gorgeous Latin keys from Hans Zermuehlen (“Electric Flow”) and Munyungo Jackson added a rooted elegance throughout the evening on percussion, resulting in an overall soulful, funky jam.

Performance: Kumalo kept the audience magnetized, opening with tribal percussion, tight syncopation and synthesized pipes on “What You Hear Is What You See.” “Zulunation” continued the Xhosa with a percussion/guitar/scat trifecta, and “Nomvula” and “Electric Flow” introduced smooth jazz and a more ambient vibe. “Root Down and Get it” added tight syncopation and organ sound, and offered fantastic band ‘shots’ throughout. Opening with congas and leading to a 12-bar blues feel with a heavy groove, “Green Onions,” was the highlight of the night. It built to a finish with kickdrum and bass solos, with Moore and Kumalo trading fours. Fabulous! 

Summary: With an incredible ability to emote and communicate through his instrument, Kumalo created a pure musical experience that was equal parts assertive, gentle and soulful. Alongside his killer band at the top of their game, Kumalo’s grounded bass sound and trademark punctuation illustrated unequivocally why the humble showman remains respected and admired by international listeners and performers alike.