Bait For Steps Forward
An openhearted celebration of heritage, Bait for Steps Forward, the debut album by arranger and pianist Nobuhle Ashanti, possesses a structured fluidity through arrangements meticulous yet improvisational. Sewing threads of bebop, soul, hip-hop, and R&B into the fabric of traditional jazz, the project deftly navigates the personal and communal over classical and contemporary intonations. Between intricate notes layered by trombonists Steven Sokuyeka and Christian Chandler, saxophonist Duncan Johnson, bassist Sean Sanby, guitarist Callum Macdonald, percussionist Lilavan Gangen, and drummer Kurt Bowers, a considered lyricism flows through this offering. Crafting tales informed by faith (“Endeavour (Prayer Suite, Pt. II)”), romance (“As Is”), and the sociopolitical (“Prayer for the Innocent”) alongside vocalists like Jodi Fredericks, Aliyah Cloete, and Little Sunflower, Nobuhle’s offerings are rhythmic chronicles of healing. It’s in the moments of tribute (“Bittersweet” and “Ancestors Pt. I & II”) and dedication (“Dear Mom”) that the album’s ethos is revealed. An appreciation for the past is contextualized by “Choices,” which explores decisions made currently through Shaw Komori’s spontaneous trumpeting. This merging of subject matter and instrumentation is enhanced by poets Def Eff, Khadija Heeger, and Kitso Seti imbuing Bait for Steps Forward with the metaphoric—a highlight of Nobuhle Ashanti’s compositions—in tandem with a palpable sense of collectivity.