Artie Zaitz & Mark Kavuma: Back To Back

An instrumental switch-up has guitarist Zaitz on organ and trumpeter Kazuma on piano in a set mixing original material with two Monk tunes


Trumpeter Mark Kavuma has been gaining increasing prominence on the UK jazz scene with Tomorrow’s Warriors and Jazz Jamaica All Stars. He’s also been featured twice as a guest soloist with Wynton Marsalis’s Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and toured Europe with the legendary Salif Keita. Back To Back is Kavuma’s fourth album following his eponymous debut (Ubuntu, 2018), The Banger Factory (Ubuntu, 2019) and 2021’s Arashi No Ato on his own Banger Factory label.

However, this CD marks a radical departure in instrumentation, for here Kavuma is predominantly heard on electric and acoustic piano whilst in-demand electric guitarist Artie Zaitz, who’s featured on all Kavuma’s previous albums, plays a 1961 Hammond C-3 organ. The duo is supported by William Cleasby on drums, already a powerful stalwart of two earlier Kavuma albums.

Two Thelonious Monk tunes are the only the non-original numbers. Following its staccato opening, Evidence progresses in a swinging fashion with a surprisingly big sound for a trio and Round Midnight is given a respectful, stately reading.

Zaitz’s slow-paced Lockdown Blues is an appropriately sombre piece that started life during the first, grim lockdown. There’s a Milesian In A Silent Way feel to it, Kavuma’s electric piano sparsely etched over waves of Hammond and sporadically crackling drums. With Kavuma initially to the fore on piano, Church is a great example of just how adept Zaitz is on organ; his meaty bass pedals underpin the piano before the full Hammond sound bursts forth.

The exception to the keyboard / drum configuration is found on Kavuma’s composition Mia’s Waltz, a reflective trumpet-led ballad and another personal rumination on lockdown. Kavuma and Zaitz prove here that as a consequence of their (literally) back-to-back rehearsals during the pandemic, and irrespective of the instrumentation, they were able to produce a session of imaginative and finely executed numbers.

Evidence; Cedar Tree; Round Midnight; Lockdown Blues; Mia’s Waltz; Church (47.20)
Zaitz (org); Kavuma (elp, p, t); William Cleasby (d). London, 29 July 2020.
Banger Factory BF003CD