OnePointOne (Live at the Blue Whale)
First Word Records
It could almost be hard to believe that this is the debut American performance by Kiwi-born drummer/band-leader Myele Manzanza – so sure is he, so assured is this trio, but then, if you heard his debut solo album, ONE or his work with Australian bassist/bandleader Ross McHendry you would understand the level he’s operating on. Big deal though this might have been it’s hit out of the park like any other gig. What’s more obvious here is that Myele Manzanza’s role as a drummer and composer and thought-player in a type of future-jazz is the focus, where ONE had him cast as hip-hop producer/DJ one minute, jazzer the next – his true calling, his true skills are on offer here. This is jazz that surges forward in such a way as to even please folk who never normally listen to jazz (quite what they’d be doing at a venue like the Blue Whale is another story). Myele is a lifeblood for the music here, a force of some reckon, a force to not be fucked with as he ploughs through dextrous fills and stomps down his authority.
He’s also a talented sideman – within his own band – there are several pieces here where he plays the background role of drummer, of time-keeper, of innovative percussionist, but never a scene-stealer. That means that when he does open out, as on the solo of Circumstances, it’s truly jaw-dropping and awe-inspiring.
For most of Montara he’s in a background role until a series of big/bigger/biggest fills have you thinking of the Billy Cobham/Lenny White fusion templates. Elsewhere he’s dynamic but subtle on the opening brace of A Love Eclectic and Absent Fade and bursting with full funk flavours on the samba-like workout of 7 Bar Thing.
Here he backs a vocalist from time to time (City of Atlantis) or gets to provide the flat-out hip-hop funk (Ben MF Shepherd).
Yes, it’s just a moment in time – but it’s his. And he’s made it ours. And OnePointOne is devastatingly good – a wonderful springboard-sampler of funk and jazz workouts. And Myele Manzanza has more inside him. As composer, as player, as bandleader. That’s obvious. This feels like the work of a seasoned pro. And then you realise, that’s exactly what he is.