A solo piano performance is an act of faith, a pregnant musical proposition with potential to orient the alert listener towards higher human ideals. It’s a faith in pianism as a process — so that by daring to physically shape sound into form, into coherent interplay of sonority, rhythm, inflection and phrasing, the pianist as sonic pilgrim may point us to discover a path towards more. This path we discover as listeners by being alert. It’s a promise rooted in the axiom that there is revelation in improvisation. Kyle Shepherd is a devoted improviser.
After The Night, The Day Will Surely Come, recorded as the world wrestles with death, disease and losses occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic, marks Shepherd out as a pianist and musician committed to hope in positive human possibility. In this way, he offers this bouquet of 10 songs as an elixir against darkness and despair.
Shepherd’s compositions explored in this album include new articulations of well-liked familiar melodies like Sweet Zim Suite, Cry of The Lonely, along with improvised marvels in Zikr, and Desert Monk. Shepherd displays a rare ability to push towards adventurous tonal harmonies while preserving the pulse and keeping the music listenable; emerging here as more than just a pair of feet and two hands on pedals and keys. It’s in how he embodies the well-travelled compositions with renewed brilliant order and athleticism, retaining the supple filigree of their cherished earlier versions.
By being attentive listeners, we may discover the pianist as a mind at work: intelligence and taste allied with formidable technical command; pursuing known sonic routes, but eschewing easy and predictable note choices on that journey — alert, alive pianism. Shepherd crafts a base of superbly controlled chordal underpinnings to every bit of sweet lilting lyricism in laments and levities, or a faintly echoed call of the adhan; the staccato of the incantatory Xhosa, or the faded IXam- ka tongues and modern Cape Malay street scamto.
Shepherd embodies much of South Africa’s piano tradition with visionary clarity. More than his own ingenuity, he holds up an appreciation of the richness of a shared musical inheritance. This must be underscored by an understanding that all pianists, in fact all artists of real commitment, have a wish to be distinctive, along with a real rootedness. The selection of tunes treated here, shores this up about Shepherd. It also points to a deeper, loftier revelation: jazz, and creativity as the ultimate articulations of human hope.
— PERCY MABANDU