Idit Shner & Mhondoro: Heatwave (album review by Christa V.)

Mhondoro means “the lion spirit” in Shona, a language of Zimbabwe, and this was a group born during the pandemic. Saxophonist Idit Shner, vocalist/percussionist John Mambira, pianist Torrey Newhart, bassist Garrett Baxter, and drummer Ken Mastrogiovanni came together as a parent pod to jam while their kids attended virtual school. The resulting music was so good that the group decided to turn it into a full album! The sound of this group is as diverse as its members, with clear influences from traditional African music influencing their jazz. The opening track has a mantra feel to it with the repetitive percussion and vocals throughout it. This continues in several other tracks, notably in “Mhondoro” which features woodwinds. The final track is peaceful and calming, and is my clear favorite of the album. The vocals are soothing and float above all of the instrumentals, and it keeps the mantra-like aspects going without becoming boring. Definitely interested to see if this ensemble keeps it up and releases more music! Favorite tracks: 1, 3, 7

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