Featured May the Lights remain heavyweights

May the Lights remain heavyweights

Kesivan Naidoo is larger than life. If he were an actor, a casting agent might recommend him for a zany guru, a rebellious teddybear, or a demented Svengali. But he’s a musician, and, seated centre stage – like a rock drummer – Kesivan is more like a noisy musical chef as he cooks away, throwing ingredients into the mix – a bluesy solo from pianist Kyle Shepherd, some rock guitar from Reza Khota, a show-stopping double bass solo from Shane Cooper, with three saxophonists and one legendary trumpeter (Feya Faku) standing by to be added to taste.

Time with the Masters is the first course, in which, as he loses one stick (after some distracting fiddling with brushes during Justin Bellairs’s alto solo), he doesn’t skip a beat in replacing it. Bellairs, one of SA’s finest young sax players, seems more frenetic when playing with the ever-energetic Naidoo, whose drums roll relentlessly, his cymbals crashing, crashing.

He switches to some nifty handdrumming for Dreamweaver, with Shepherd venturing into the piano innards, then returns to sticks as saxophonists Johan Hörlen and Karl- Martin Almqvist (who have now joined Bellairs and Faku in the horn section) add some tasty morsels, tenor man Almqvist playing in very different mode to his previous set with the Stockholm Jazz Orchestra: Kesivan Naidoo will do that to you. A longstanding Naidoo composition, Eclipse, ebbs and flows with an opening from Shepherd, a spicy solo from Bellairs (who has now switched to soprano), and some soul food from Feya Faku who – finally! – solos.

Freedom Dance, which incorporates soundbites from Nelson Mandela speeches (played in by Shepherd), is a rousing end to the gig. “We’ve run out of time”, says Kesivan, “but you’re still here, so…..” and he introduces Contact, “a sci-fi” composition. Shepherd gives us some Twilight Zone-piano, then an oud-like use of the piano strings, with Khota and Almqvist adding some appropriately eerie effects. When the audience rise to applaud, Naidoo suggests they stay standing and dance because the Lights are going to give them a “kwaito” encore. It turns out to be Smells like Teen Spirit, a surprising afterdinner libation. Nirvana indeed.

Some complain that Kesivan Naidoo, who recently took this band to Carnegie Hall, plays too much, too busily, too noisily. And in truth he probably does, but this is his band and the like-minded musicians who play in it rise to the challenge of his rolling thunder. Long may the Lights be the heavyweights!

Nigel Vermaas 

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