Carlo Mombelli & The Prisoners Of Strange, Theory [Instinct Africaine]

Bassist/composer Carlo Mombelli is well known in the international bass world as an experienced modern jazz sideman and composer in his own right.
By Bryan Beller ,

Bassist/composer Carlo Mombelli is well known in the international bass world as an experienced modern jazz sideman and composer in his own right. He’s far enough away (Johannesburg, South Africa) to somehow have escaped the attention of this space, but no longer. His latest release shows off a musician in full, with his command of the instrument so secure his virtuosic moments fade into an unexplainably delightful sonic pastiche. Mombelli’s Prisoners Of Strange are composed of drums, trumpet, flugelhorn, and very affected vocals (beautifully sung by Siya Makuzeni), plus plumbing pipes, mixing bowls, Buddhist hand cymbals, and a yak bell. That said, it’s not unlistenably “out” at all; Mombelli’s bass tones are warm, graceful, and inviting. The title-track opener lays it out nicely: A series of ringing bass-chord patterns complement a horn melody over an eerie, Radioheadlike 5/4 groove. The disc’s eight-minute tour de force, “The Hurricane Of Silence,” features a multi-layered bass line, complete with harmonics, thumb-muted picking, and a harmonic-minor-inflected melody, before careening off into an absurdly pitch-bent bass solo. The album closes with a funereal dirge, a simple motif played exquisitely, over and over again. Avant-garde bass-focused jazz composition has rarely sounded this gorgeous.