Sandy Evans & Bobby Singh
Review by John Hardaker
With any worthwhile art, universality can spark from specifics. ‘Guernica’, though a reaction to Fascist bombing of one village during the Spanish Civil War, says much about us all, forever. Beethoven’s pastoral tone poems flow far from his German rivers, flowing into the sky, into the stream of time.
Saxophonist Sandy Evans’ recent project with tabla player Bobby Singh, Kapture, has come from very specific origins, yet speaks with universality. Conceived in 2011 as a collaboration with dancer/choreographer Liz Lea inspired by the life of South African anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada, the music has a life, and a voice, of its own.
Brought into being by the remarkable group of musicians on Evans and Singh’s recent recording of the piece – Toby Hall on drums, Brett Hirst on double bass and singer Sarangan Sriranganathan – Kapture speaks of joy, pain, cold fear, longing and unbroken spirit.
From the drone fade in to opener ‘Passive Resistance, No Regrets’, one is in a new place: Sriranganathan’s vocal and Evan’s soprano moving over a 14 beat Hindustan taal rhythm.
‘One Planet’ leaps into a frenetic 7/8 dance then, exhausted, we are adrift on the drone sea of ‘Explosion of Memory’ – Evans’ soprano sax swooping and gliding overhead like a gull while Toby Hall’s percussion ripples the surface or swells waves from beneath.
A number of tunes here have rhythms derived from Kathrada’s Robben Island prison number – 46864 – but, far from being a cold mathematical exercise these beats and grooves jump and leap with that assymetrical joy which is at the heart of much Indian music. Indo-Jazz fusions seems work with greater success than many other jazz fusions because they are bound by the art of improvisation. Also, because Indian music has a horizontal linearity – melody and rhythm, without vertical harmony – it makes for a sinuous union that works with a natural propulsion.
Brett Hirst’s bass solo ‘Deprivation’ was improvised to Liz Lea’s dancing in the studio and it conjures the blue darkness of Ahmed Kathrada’s prison loneliness perfectly – this flows into Evan’s melancholy ‘No Children Here’, its longing lines mirroring Kathrada’s longing for his oqwn children. A universal pain.
Sandy Evans’ playing across the album is unique and spiritedly human, which is what we have come to expect from her. Her questing nature and driven desire to consistently move out of the confines of Jazz has shown her to be an artist going for a universal sound. That universality is present in all of her more recent music and, as I have mentioned above, is all over Kapture.
The final piece on the CD is a Bobby Singh solo performance called ‘Some See Stars’. It is inspired by a remark of Ahmed Kathrada’s concerning two Robben Island prisoners: looking out of the cell window one only saw the bars, the other saw the stars.
Sandy Evans, despite being all too aware of the bars, has always made music that only sees the stars.
Sandy Evans: tenor and soprano saxophone
Bobby Singh: tabla
Brett Hirst: double bass
Toby Hall: drums and percussion
Sarangan Sriranganathan: vocal