It’s a balmy evening in Cape Town and a crowd is dribbling into formation on Loop Street; early arrivers staking claims to the scattered tables of Alliance Française (while its humble kitchen dispatches slivers of quiche to those in the know). Red lights warm a stage draped in an ethnic rug; a still-life with wood and strings. Steve Newman, Errol Dyers and Hilton Schilder are shooting the breeze in the wings, their toils having culminated in the body of music they’re about to stamp on the unconsciousness of those present for the launch of their album.
This extraordinary combination of Cape Town musicians evokes the spirit that brought Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucía together for Friday Night in San Francisco. However, unlike the virtuosic Jazz-Flamenco trio of the early 80s, Newman, Dyers and Schilder have concretised a theory for their union, appearing as All In One and gathering their recorded material under the same name. Moreover, while prescribed structure and precise execution makes Friday Night beautiful, All In One channels its power in the process of playing and finds its voice when separate contributions become indistinguishable from the new compound that’s formed; when the trio becomes what they call themselves.
Taking the stage, Newman, Dyers and Schilder exude the tempered confidence of seasoned craftsmen. That this is a profoundly South African cast, there is not doubt, but there’s also a shamanistic air that hangs about them. This could be attributed to the psychedelic drawings that adorn the stage; perhaps the white robe over leather chaps of their creator, Schilder (replete with eyeliner and Mohican). Perhaps it’s Newman’s ponytail, resembling a seafaring rope, or Dyers’ beanie, which gives him the weathered look of a cosmic fisherman. Despite appearances, that these men are at least conjurers is confirmed when the music begins.
The two sets are characterised by sonic tapestries that reference Flamenco Rumba, Gypsy Swing, Tango, Maskanda and Goema. In addition to Newman’s selection of exquisitely crafted guitars, instruments featured include curiosities like the rain stick, the mouth bow and the melodica (and even the manner in which the three wean sounds from their tools is novel). Each performer also commits a solo offering to the show, which sees Newman stroking inlays on the face of his guitar to produce the sound of a kalimba. Dyers brings a dirge to the table while Schilder’s piece, albeit acoustic, carries the aesthetics of Prog Rock.
All In One provides an engaging performance and All In One (Swett Shoppe Records) is a dazzling album. The combination of styles, instruments and influences tethered to a raw improvisational approach has produced something that bespeaks the true nature of Ubuntu. When diverse sounds unite, the result is something more than the sum of its parts. It’s a motherless sound because its origins are blurred. They may be the old guard but this is a new sound for Cape Town.