Asher Gamedze is a jazz drummer from South Africa, who would not actually class himself as specifically of the jazz genre, but then Asher is a philosopher who is intent on viewing the wider picture and considering all avenues.
His new album, Turbulence and Pulse (May 5, 2023), follows his 2020 debut, Dialectic Soul, asking many questions, mainly concerning time. Asher’s main concern is that time is ever moving (this we know), with no beginning and no end, so where do we fit into that?
His music, despite what Asher claims, is distinctly jazz and is rooted (in my ears) in the realms of the Blue Note artists of the 1950s and ’60s. His band echoes the likes of Charles Mingus, Art Blakey and Dizzy Gillespie, yet still sounds contemporary and urgent enough to matter hugely. It is worth noting how mature the saxophone skills of Buddy Wells sound in this recording, unsurprising when considering his lengthy history of collaborating alongside many a giant of the jazz scene.
A preview of the album cements the vitality of the work as evidenced in the singles “Wynter Time” and “Sometimes I Think to Myself.”
Even the most devoted jazz fans may find it difficult to detect the thoughts of the jazz composer, and the deeply philosophical musings of Asher are as important to the recordings as the music. To help us understand the meaning behind the album, he kindly narrates over the opening track, “Turbulence’s Pulse,” and also provides a short film that adds a welcome context.
The documentary short film, sharing its name, Turbulence and Pulse with the album, takes us to a rooftop patio in Cairo where Asher has been recording and performing, and we see and hear some of those fruits here. We also hear him in lengthy conversation with his friends and mentors Leigh Ann-Naidoo (A left-wing activist whose work has included supporting University Students, Black communities, LGBTQ groups and Palestinian Solidarity campaigns) and Marcus Solomon (Also a socialist and activist since the 1950s for such causes as student politics, civic struggles, guerilla study groups, worker education and The Children’s Movement). Asher is in solid company.
Together they discuss how we regard the passing of time and look at key points in history (such as South African liberation), the impact they have had and how historical events work in tandem with the now. Marcus Soloman is concerned with the idea that not one person can change the world (referencing Lawrence of Arabia), but groups and societies have that power. Leigh-Ann discusses how irrelevant time is becoming in the structure of education. To illustrate the points that they raise, flourishes of Asher’s music are intertwined, and by the end, we get the idea of what his music is sign-posting.
The film is worth a view as it really does help to anchor Asher’s ideas to the music; however, the music alone is nothing short of excellent and works as its own entity.
Starring: Asher Gamedze, Leigh-Ann Naidoo, Marcus Solomon
Production Company: International Anthem/Mushroom Hour Half Hour
Distributed by: International Anthem/Mushroom Hour Half Hour
Release Date: April 5, 2023
Run Time: 17:26