The most exciting of the three by far is Kheswa & Her Martians, whose Meadowlands, Stolen Jazz (Xippi Phonorecords 32740) is a four-star delight. Nonhlanhla Khewsa hails from Soweto and is a worthy heiress to the legendary Miriam Makeba. Like the latter she possesses a powerful and supple voice that is anything but a classical jazz set of pipes. She can growl and grunt, but her voice naturally gravitates to upper palette higher tones usually associated with pop singers. All of this is to say that if you like your jazz sultry and smoky, steer clear–Khewsa favors bright, bold, muscular, and sassy. The album’s name is a triple pun in that the music presented was once forbidden and played on the sly in South Africa’s black townships, some of the music has been “stolen” in the sense that it’s been recorded before (including the 1955 title track song), and that which hasn’t been borrowed has been lifted from its original context. Kheswa fronts a seven-piece band that contains two killer saxophonists (Jovan Alexandre and Karim Rome) and a pianist (Taber Gable) who doesn’t merely back the songs, he shapes and orchestrates them. At times Khewesa is swingy, at others as hep as Ella Fitzgerald, and at still others a jazzy version of Angélique Kidjo. I would yield to purists that insist that Kheswa is more of a popularizer and a classic jazz singer, but that’s why I like her so much!