Instrumentalist - Viola, Instrumentalist - Violin
Spin of the Week
27th & Grand (EDI 4073) by Nokuthula Ngwenyama, violin and viola; Vome, vocals; Michael Long, guitar; Dan Tomlinson, drums

Like any good modern violist, Nokuthula Ngwenyama, a Californian of Zimbabwean-Japanese parentage, has displayed a willingness to stretch out artistically in search of new material. While she's perfectly comfortable playing Bach's Partitas and Sonatas, Ngwenyama has also won acclaim for her 2004 recording Che!: A Musical Biography, based on the life of the late Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara and featuring guitarist Michael Long. Here she reunites with Long to explore what producer Jean-Pierre Levesque has described as "an evolving Southwest urban sound." In this case, the Southwest includes LA: Ngwenyama offers soulful jazz licks on "Some Stuff," an ode to the late jazz-violinist Stuff Smith. She is joined on this adventure by drummer Dan Tomlinson and the innovative vocalist Vome. The vocals are fanciful, often wordless or comprised of a sort of Franco-Zulu Esperanto. The drums usher a bold rock beat, though there are plenty of Latin grooves and lots of interesting interchanges between the violin and drums. The string playing is musically adventurous and technically precise; Ngwenyama employs amazingly high-pitched tones and horn-like sounds, and 27th & Grand sports a refreshingly vibrant avant-garde vibe--Ngwenyama even threads pieces of paper through her strings on "Selva." She leaves you wishing more string players were willing to embark on these kinds of exploratory journeys.
Greg Cahill, Strings Magazine
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