Thandi Ntuli with Carlos Niño : Rainbow Revisited

Avatar photo
Thandi Ntuli Carlos Nino Rainbow revisited

A musical collaboration is an experiment—sometimes the results can go awry, while at other times, it can be a magical mix of personalities, musical tastes and a mutual love of making noise. South African pianist, composer, and singer Thandi Ntuli has partnered with innovative west coast percussionist and well-regarded producer Carlos Niño to explore sound and to play with how we relate to it. Rainbow Revisited retains the excitement of Ntuli’s music alongside Niño’s masterful and subtle use of percussion.

The L.A.-based producer says he was called by an inner voice to return to this project in 2021 and finish the album, which the two had started after initially meeting in 2019. Niño’s previous project—(I’m just) Chillin’, on Fire—arrived in September, and it plays around with notions of “ambient jazz” (what is it, what can it be). For that, he enlisted stars musicians like Kamasi Washington, investigating electronic sounds, reverb, and more amorphous notions of composition (ones that aren’t determined by a specific tune or melody), and he described the project as a “Spiritual, Improvisational, Space, Collage” of sound. Now, working with Ntuli, his sound has not only opened up but has likewise allowed Ntuli’s style to expand and reach new heights.

The album opens with “Sunrise (in California).” It has a jazziness about it that pulls the listener in, though not necessarily with wild feats of improvisation. There is a soulfulness to it, a melody lurking inside which peeks out, like sunshine. In come vocals in a scat style that sways and moves smoothly—unlike the highly rhythmic sort that jazz singers in past generations have employed. Further on, we get more innovative compositions, like “Breath and Synth Experiment.” Right up Niño’s alley, it’s more of a soundscape, atmospheric, less overtly reliant on traditional melody or song structure. It’s fluid, slithering between sounds, often repeated sounds, and some added chimes, in-take/out-take of breaths, and spacey electronic noises. It’s not beautiful in a conventional sense, but it’s an intriguing track that shows off a different side than just technical ability.

Ntuli’s music on her previous albums featured larger arrangements, and for a while she performed with Shabaka and the Ancestors. A funky energy slips and slides in her compositions, giving them a more fluid sense of movement. The blend of different influences allows Ntuli’s songs to surprise and enchant the listener. On Rainbow Revisited, the composer and pianist showcases her gentler side, a tender side. “Nomoyoyo (Ingoma ka Mkhulu)” is like a lullaby. It’s soft and sweet, but not like a Broadway ballad, speaking to her own heritage by incorporating a melody written by her grandfather.

The balance between the musicians is wonderful. Niño brings his many years of experience to that table, listening to what Ntuli has to offer and helping her push her musical skill set further. “Sunset (in California)” uses an ocean wave sound (most likely cymbals) as a backdrop to piano and vocals. Again, there is a gentleness—a show of vulnerability perhaps—allowing the listener in to see a softer side of the composer. Niño still gets his non-traditional music style in, with synth and percussion, but it is enhanced by the melodic work of Ntuli. The meditative atmosphere that runs through many of Niño’s own albums continues on here. There is a beat and a groove, but there is also quiet and a sense of searching, of allowing music to flow and be what it will be. Speaking about his recent solo album, he said that his identity is always in flux, that creativity is always shifting and that pushes him to find new ways of self-expression. Here, as well, he changes through collaboration—which he notes is an important part of music for him.

Rainbow Revisited is not only an accessible album, but it is innovative and playful one. Thandi Ntuli has proven herself once again as a forward-thinking musician willing to take risks and go to new places. Partnering with such an experienced musician as Carlos Niño—involved in producing, engineering and mixing over 150 records—has allowed something sophisticated and unique to happen. This release doesn’t sit still; it moves, and it invites its audience to move as well. From start to finish, the music rolls effortlessly. Through moments of stillness and wandering melody as well as steady rhythms and tender tunes, the album sings out and shows what can be achieved when a passion for music and sound collide congenially.

Label: International Anthem

Year: 2023

Similar Albums:

View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll To Top