Playing the drums as a melodic instrument is nigh impossible but that does not prevent Kesivan Naidoo from coming damn close to accomplishing it. I have the feeling that one day I’ll be watching him play and the breakthrough will happen: that drum kit will start singing.
Naidoo has an uncanny ability to speak to his drums, but he had a bit of an argument with them when his sextet walked onstage and without ado launched into a Bheki Mseleku composition - a lovely continuum from the earlier Afrika Mkhize gig which ended off with Mseleku.
He wasn’t happy but in his signature easy-going style he explained that the lot of them were feeling rather rushed and, water bottles all round, he soon had himself and accompanying musicians mending their relationship with the music, tuning in so they could let go and soar.
Soar was what they proceeded to do with a heart-rending cover of Bjork’s ‘Dancer in the Dark’ before embarking on a search for the soul in a meditation-inspired composition.
His suite based on Nelson Mandela’s address to the crowds gathered on Cape Town’s Grand Parade following his release in 1990 provided some of the most stunning jazz improvisation I have had the honour of witnessing.
Lasting about 30 minutes odd, each of the incredibly talented musicians took their turn at enthralling us with their sound while Naidoo kept us riveted to the rhythm.
Martin Sjöstedt did things with that bass that left me flabbergasted, my mouth hanging open, and Gorm Helfjörd showed just how incredible electric guitar can sound when transferred to jazz, blowing us away with dextrous delicacy that, through restraint, revealed the power of an amplified instrument so integrally associated with rock.
Karl-Martin Almqvist on sax, Helge Sunde on trombone and Andre Petersen on piano equally sent me into an auditory ecstasy, with Naidoo confounded expectation in combining dissonance and order.
“The march to freedom is irreversible. We must not let fear stand in our way.” Mandela’s words took on new meaning as Kesivan Naidoo & the Lights set them alight and sent us back into the night buzzing and glowing. — Steve Kretzmann