AMN Reviews: Mankwe Ndosi and Body MemOri – felt/not said (2021; Auspice NOW)

As yet more proof that free improvisation has no bounds, vocalist Mankwe Ndosi has put together a quartet with the great Tomeka Reid on cello, Davu Seru on drums, and Sylvia Bolognesi on bass. A vinyl version of the release contains just short of 40 minutes of music, while the digital version adds about 24 more.

These loosely structured pieces are true collaborations, in the sense that each instrument is equally important. Mdosi’s vocals are scat-like and often wordless, reminiscent of Kyoko Kitamura’s recent works, as well as those of historical importance. She gives her voice a workout with moans, cries, breathiness, using her lips and throat to craft unusual sounds. Nonetheless, with the help of her bandmates, she is able to tell a story through mood, inflection, and tone.

There is a distinct minimalization of melody and repeating structure, as Seru and Bolognesi eschew conventional patterns for non-stop exploration. These efforts are rich and tightly played despite their apparent lack of determinism. Bolognesi and Reid both employ bowing and assertive plucking in a variety of registers, and contribute layered drones. Reid’s playing, at times, resembles more of what one would expect from a member of a chamber ensemble than a jazz band.

The album is promoted as being AACM-like, and that moniker is appropriate as both Ndosi and Reid are affiliated with that organization. Beyond that, felt/not said also fits the AACM model of “serious” music spanning genres and cultures. Regardless, this is a singular effort of atypical music that is both intellectual and soulful.