Skip to main content

Jazz Musician & Composer Ivan Mazuze: Straddling the globe with a saxophone

Jazz Musician & Composer Ivan Mazuze
Straddling the globe with a saxophone

Listen to his music on Spotify
Buy his music on iTunes

I had the opportunity to hear Ivan Mazuze play recently at the Hamilton World Music Festival and hang with him for a couple of days in the sun.

In performance, he was loose and fluid with only two short rehearsals with his backup band (the stellar Jay Danley Ethio Jazz Project of Toronto) and in spite of a couple of glitches with the sound system. In a panel discussion I was fortunate enough to be a part of, he was eloquent and articulate on the art of juggling African and Nordic jazz and his roles as a musician and ambassador for Norwegian music.
Ivan Mazuze
About Ivan
Ivan began his musical studies in Mozambique at the National Music School in 1987 with piano as first instrument. After 8 years of classical piano training Mazuze joined the woodwind section of the same school with a focus on improvisation. After finishing the basic elementary music school, Mazuze continued his studies at the Department of Jazz and Ethnomusicology at the University of Cape Town.

Ivan has performed with a wide variety of South African and Mozambica artists, including Tucan Tucan, Mingas, Bill Prince, Wazimbo, Jimmy Dludlu, Loading Zone and many others.
Ivan Mazuze
He is currently music instructor (woodwind instruments) for Oslo - Music and Cultural School in Norway and contributing artistic mentor for the International Jazz Day celebrations in Oslo, Norway. Since 2015 Mazuze seats as a board member national and international folk music, joik and folk dance, Rikscenen - Norway.

Additionally Mazuze was the driving force behind the implementation of the International Jazz Day in his home country, Mozambique with its very first edition in 2015. More recently, Mazuze is the musical leader together with Unni Løvlid for the program Talent 2016 at the Førdefestivalen in Norway.



The CDs
I decided to check out his three releases to get a better grip on his music. Ivan writes the majority of the material on his CDs, with a few co-written songs in each album.

MAGANDA (2009)
Recorded in South Africa in 2008, Maganda is Ivan's first full length release - and the word Maganda is his traditional name. In it, he seamlessly draws from traditional Mozambican musical genres like maskandi and marrabenta along with Western and Latin jazz idioms, offering textural complexity along with a driving groove.

The release is characterized by standard jazz idioms with a lively energy, with Ivan's fluid sax singing above it all. There's a nicely lush sense of instrumentation, including prominent keyboards on some tracks, liquid gold jazz guitar and a busy drummer. The release features titles in Mozambican languages, Portuguese and English and some tracks include vocals African style female chorus. Piece of Peace - the only song that uses Western jazz idioms/melody - features male and female vocals and philosophical lyrics. In Going Home, Ivan picks up the flute in a plaintive melody against Southern African rhythms.

It's a very accomplished first release in the African jazz canon.

NDZUTI (2012)
Released in 2012 after he got to Norway, in Ndzuti Ivan's music takes on a variety of global influences with the addition of Cuban pianist Omar Sosa and Ivoirian vocalist Manou Gallo. Also prominent is percussionist Sidiki Camara of Mali in a kind of Pan-African contingent with Cuban vibes.

The music is much more global in feel from the very first track. Ivan's skills on the flute are more in evidence on this release. He plays flute, soprano and tenor sax and sings - it's a dizzying, kinetic whirl of music.

In Celina, the sax takes the vocal line against a syncopated polyrhythm. Pé Descalço is a track that occupies a more Western jazz mode, with the lyrics sung in Portuguese. Ivan's sax goes from a clear, golden tone to throaty and sexy, often trading back and forth with Manou's vocals. The Cuban influence is especially evident on Ritmo de la Vida, a lush, melodic track.

Ndzuti means "shadow" in Xichangana, an ancient Mozambican language, a title he feels reflects his heritage set against a modern perspective. As a whole, the release reveals a more developed personal style that reaches beyond his own influences with stylish results.

UBUNTU - 2015
Recorded in Norway, in this release Ivan's style takes on another influence - Norwegian or Nordic jazz. There's more of an emphasis on his virtuoso playing in a range of contexts.

Inta Mutlhangela is the languid first track, a favourite of mine. The CD feature distinctly Southern African influences in tracks like the title Ubuntu. Celebration features the West African balafone played by Sidiki Camara (of Mali,) beginning with a chant and West African polyrhythms, Ivan's sax floating above the layers of sonic texture.

In this release, the compositions and song structures are more complex, attuned to the contemporary jazz scene and featuring superb jazz percussion by Frank Paco. Water is a stand out track with a trippy vibe reminiscent of... water, Ivan's sax fluid and the melody pensive. The track takes a turn around the avant garde and comes back into lush melody.

Ivan has the confidence of a runner who can go at top speed if necessary but who knows the value of superb phrasing and tone.

He also appears on JazzCD.no – 7th set – a compilation of jazz from Norway 2016 produced by Norsk Jazzforum in close cooperation with The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Music Norway.

From his recent appearance at the Hamilton World Music Festival on July 17, 2016:

Comments

What Else Is Hot This Week?

Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company Spring 2013 Toronto Performances

From a media release:

The new season brings
Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company
to new heights and new audiences

March 20-24, 2013 - A Night in Madrid
April 25-28, 2013 - Annual Toronto Season - World Premiere of Portales

TORONTO : Following on the heels of Esmeralda Enrique Spanish Dance Company's (EESDC) 30th anniversary year where its production Aguas/Waters was named one of the top five dance shows of 2012 by NOW Magazine, the early months of 2013 are full of excitement and possibility for Esmeralda and the company, which brings the finest flamenco and Spanish Classical Dance to Toronto stages.

March 20-24, 2013 - A Night in Madrid
Company dancers Esmeralda Enrique and Paloma Cortés perform Spanish Classical dance with the celebrated Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir for A Night in Madrid featuring the Iberian flavoured music of composer Luigi Boccherini who made his home in Spain. His work is infused with the sounds of Spanish and gypsy folk music.

March 20-24 …

Polina Semionova to Appear as Guest Artist with American Ballet Theatre

From a media release:

POLINA SEMIONOVA TO APPEAR AS GUEST ARTIST
WITH AMERICAN BALLET THEATRE
FOR 2011 SPRING SEASON AT METROPOLITAN OPERA HOUSE

New York - Polina Semionova, a principal dancer with Berlin State Opera Ballet, will debut as a Guest Artist with American Ballet Theatre for the 2011 Metropolitan Opera House season, it was announced January 14, 2011 by Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie. With ABT, Semionova will perform Kitri in Don Quixote at the matinee on Saturday, May 21, opposite David Hallberg as Basilio, and the dual role of Odette/Odile in Swan Lake on Saturday evening, July 2, opposite Hallberg as Prince Siegfried.

Born in Moscow, Semionova studied at the Bolshoi Ballet School before joining the Berlin State Opera Ballet as the company’s youngest principal dancer. Her repertoire with Berlin State Opera Ballet includes Odette-Odile in Swan Lake, Nikiya in La Bayadère, Marie in The Nutcracker, Princess Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, Swanilda in Coppélia, Kitri in Don Quixo…

Lithuanian Rock: Robertas Semeniukas - Backstage Stories (Independent / November 20, 2019)

Robertas Semeniukas - Backstage Stories
(Independent / November 20, 2019)
Stream it on Spotify
The Album "Backstage Stories" 2xLP & CD

Robertas Semeniukas is a great find if you like your rock with a hard edge and a strong groove. Naturally, guitar reigns supreme, with a sound that ranges from snarly to fluid and melodic, and virtuosic chops to keep everything interesting. You don't have to understand Lithuanian to enjoy the well-crafted songs and polished musicianship.

Of the 20 tracks, 8 are instrumental. This is rock in what you'd call a classic vein, heavily influenced by 1980s and 1990s bands, but with a modern gloss to it, and a sense of musical experimentation that isn't often associated with that era in Western pop music. Robertas wrote or co-wrote all the tracks except for one cover, the blues composition You Gotta Move by Mississippi Fred McDowell.

Within the rock/metal genre, the prolific composer, singer and musician mines a variety of moods. So…

So You Can't Go: Six Ways To Travel Virtually

So You Can't Go:
Six Ways To Travel VirtuallyTravel is limited for most of us in the world these days. For Canadians, it depends on the province you live in, but with the border to the US still closed, and other options limited at best, virtual travel from the couch can provide at least a view with a difference at a time when you may well need it most. Google Cardboard – VR On A BudgetYou don't need a lot of cash to get into travel via virtual reality. Google Cardboard is a line of VR viewers that are, well, made of cardboard, and are priced starting at $12CAD.If you check out this link, you'll find out how to download the software to your smartphone.At this link, you can get yourself an actual Google Cardboard for a hands-free VR experience. Google Cardboard apps offer a variety of ways to experience our beautiful planet, including Google Earth itself, which can take you anywhere, along with apps to view museums and cultural artifacts, and more.Ascape VRAscape has a huge l…

Blues/Rock: The Cole Patenaude Band - Are You Happy Now? (Independent / 24 July 2020)

Blues/Rock:
The Cole Patenaude Band - Are You Happy Now?
(Independent / 24 July 2020) Buy the CD Big vocals and infectious grooves make up this release from The Cole Patenaude Band. It's modern blues with a classic sensibility, anchored by solid musicianship and upbeat songwriting. 
Keyboard player Dean Thiessen and Patenaude on guitar trade off solos and melodic lines to keep it interesting through a range of bluesy style, incorporating rock and country, with a pop song sheen on songs like For the Money. Would You Be Mine is more Elvis-esque rockabilly, while How To Love is an acoustic song with folky storytelling lyrics and feel. 
Compromise is a standout track, with a snarly guitar line and a churchy organ swelling underneath a nice bluesy beat. Horns aren't credited in the notes, but I swear I heard some on this and a couple of the other tracks. 
As a husband, father, and full-time mechanic based in Langley, British Columbia, finding the time to make his music was a challenge…