|Article by Ogova Ondego
Published November 27, 2007
Some 40 jazz and jazz-related musical groups are lined up for the 9th Cape Town International Jazz Festival in March 2008. Dubbed ‘Africa’s Grandest Gathering’ and ranked fourth in the world by the Melodytrip’s ranking of jazz festivals, the Cape Town International Jazz Festival is now ahead of Switzerland’s Montreaux Festival and the North Sea Jazz Festival in Holland, the festival will be held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre March 28-29, 2008. OGOVA ONDEGO reports.
Festival publicists, Thompson n Team, quote Rashid Lombard, the event’s director, as saying, “The formula of the Cape Town International Jazz Festival is simple: bring jazz together with its popular music siblings. The 33,356 people who attended the 2007 festival are proof that this is a winning formula.”
While more than 350 people attended the various courses:arts journalism, music business, music training for high schools and workshops for
Among other events, the 2008 festival is expected to hold Duotone Photographic Exhibition, South Atlantic Jazz Music Conference, arts journalism course, music business course, and music workshops for schools alongside music performances.
A five-day stage lighting workshop is also expected to take place with the first two days of the course focusing on the theoretical aspects of the trade while the last three will see trainees put the theory to practice at the festival.
To cater for those who cannot afford tickets, a ‘Free Community Concert’ is scheduled for the evening of March 26, 2008. It is estimated that close to 8000 people attended a similar event in 2007.
The build-up to the two-day music concerts on Friday 28 and Saturday 29 are expected to kick-off with Gigs for Kids, a Gospel Concert and a “Cape Town Cares” concert for pensioners and senior citizens on March 22, 23 and 24, respectively.
Another exciting addition to the 2008 events is the move by the South African Association of Jazz Educators (SAJE) to link up with the Cape Town International Jazz Festival. SAJE, that brings together the country’s jazz educators, will hold its annual conference in the week of the festival in Cape Town. Previous SAJE conferences, Thompson n Team say, hosted public concerts where renowned musicians and educators such as New York Big Band’s trombonist and leader John Fedchock, pianist Dennis Tini from the Wayne State University in Detroit and trumpeter Ron McCurdy from the Monk Institute, performed.
Like in previous years, say Thompson n Team, the music will range from straight-ahead chords by older statesmen of jazz such as US pianist Kenny Barron to fiery township lines that South Africa’s kwaito artist Zola will belt out.
Leading the lot at the Rosies stage will be Kenny Barron, a retired Rutgers University professor of jazz piano. His explorations of Brazilian rhythms in albums such the 1993 Sambao and 2002 Canta Brasil are proof of Barron’s versatility and deftness in his touch.
Inducted onto the American Jazz Hall of Fame in 2005, the 64-year old pianist is a leader in his trade.
Barron who served his apprenticeship with luminaries such as Dizzy Gillespie, Yusef Lateef and Stan Getz, brings to Cape Town a Japanese bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa and Cuban drummer Francisco Mela. Kitagawa is known for his work with his fellow countryman, Makoto Ozone. The percussive Mela has been creating waves as a member of the Joe Lovano Quartet.
There will be lots of smoother sounds between Kenny Barron’s lyricism and Zola’s “ghetto scandalous” chants about Bhambatha, skoko and umdlwembe.
Two musicians that are definitely likely to dominate this range are two US saxophonists, Gerald Albright and Najee. The years that Albright as the sideman to keyboardist Bobby Lyle, pianist Herbie Hancock, vocalists Anita Baker, Will Downing and Whitney Houston; gave the multi-instrumentalist a sense of how to reach larger audiences through his music. Since turning professional, Albright has sold no less that 1-million units of his recording in the US.
Like Albright, Najee is king of smooth jazz. Born in New York City, he cut his teeth performing with the Fatback Band and Chaka Khan. He also collaborated with people like Quincy Jones, Stanley Clarke, Larry Carlton and Billy Cobham. Having garnered wide recognition in South Africa, Najee is featured in Moreira Chonguiça debut album. Chonguiça is a Cape Town-based Mozambican saxophonist.
From the East comes pianist Hiromi. Born in Shizouka in Japan, Hiromi started to play piano at the age of six. At the age of 12 she gave public performances. This is before he went as a 14-year old to the Czech Republic where she played with that country’s philharmonic orchestra. Before registering in 1999 to study at the Berklee College of Music, Hiromi had an off-chance opportunity to play with Chick Corea. Pianist Ahmad Jamal co-produced her 2003 debut with Telarc. This was no accident as Hiromi has always looked towards Jamal in developing her piano playing style. Her piano playing ranges from mellow sounds to very virtuosic, choppy and rockish chords.
Representing the Scandinavian countries will be Swedish saxophonist and
As a man of much collaboration, Åberg’s appearance at the 2008 Cape Town International Jazz Festival will feature US drummer Peter Erskine who is known for his work with Steps Ahead, Yellowjackets and Weather Report. The two have recorded two albums together. Such collaborations are not new for Åberg. In the past, he collaborated with people such Zakir Hussain, Bob Brookmeyer, Clark Terry, Kenny Wheeler and Hariprasad Chaurasia.
In July 2007, Åberg was at the Istanbul Jazz Festival where he performed with Oriental Wind, a group that Turkish percussionist Okay Temíz leads. They played a fusion of jazz with Turkish folk and Sufi music. But legendary in jazz circles is Åberg’s collaboration with trumpeter. In a relationship that went back to the 1970s, Åberg regularly performed with Don Cherry. The Swedish artist is featured in Cherry’s final studio album, Dona Nostra. Åberg’s new CD Free Sprit has music that the two musicians performed together.
Earlier in his career Åberg had an interest in non-European tonalities. In the 1970s, together with Bobo Stenson, Palle Danielsson and Bengt Berger, Åberg formed Rena Rama–a jazz group that played music based largely on Indian, African and Eastern European influences. Asked about his keenness to work with Åberg, Erskine said “Lennart Åberg’s music is worth getting on an airplane and flying 8,873 kilometers for…”
On the opposite side of the scale are two big bands that come out of Cape Town, Gavin Minter’s Friends with the Mother City Jazz Orchestra and the Leslie Klein-Smith & “Mother City Groove”.
Led by singer, saxophonist, percussionist, composer and promoter Gavin Minter the band will draw on the cream of Cape Town’s jazz musicians; Winston Mankunku Ngozi, Andrew Lilley, Dave Ledbetter, Kevin Gibson, Mark Fransman, Shaun Johannes and John Hassan.
The second big band will be led by singer, performer in musicals and cabaret entertainer Leslie Klein-Smith. Counting Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. as his influences, Klein-Smith has perfected his presentation and synchronises his contra-alto voice with his choreographed steps. In a career that spans more than 40-years, Klein Smith’s highpoint was when he performed at the 1992 Miss World Contest to 600 million television viewers.
Undoubtedly leading the African troupe is none other than Zimbabwe’s Oliver Mtukudzi.
Mtukudzi is no newcomer at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival having performed at the festival previously. There excitement about his coming appearance is that it takes place after the Zimbabwean singer has revamped his accompanying band, Black Spirits. He has included two mbira players in the band. Tuku as Mtukudzi is affectionately called has recently launched a DVD Wonai on his musical journey.
Another band that will rely on indigenous instruments in its performance at the 2008 Cape Town International Jazz Festival is the Bongani Sotshononda Project. Since 1988 Sotshononda has been a member of a marimba group, Phambili. Later the group brought in horns into their music and has been involved in crossover projects with brass musicians from the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra. For next year’s festival, Sotshononda is embarking on a new collaboration.
In all the years that the Cape Town International Jazz Festival has been in existence, there is always a female vocalist that holds the fort at each of the five festival stages. Taking charge of vocal scores at the Rosies stage is the hottest jazz singer in the US today, Tierney Sutton. Discovering jazz late in her teens, the Los Angeles-based vocalist took to the music when she saw Betty Carter’s live performance. Describing her experience of the show, Sutton says, “I thought that it was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen. And after that I knew there was this thing, it was called jazz, and that’s what I wanted to do”.
Bursting onto the scene in the late 1990s, the Berklee College of Music graduate has built up a considerable following since then. Under her belt she has six CDs. Her 2005 I’m with the Band won her a Grammy nomination in the best jazz vocal album. Her infectious voice and her presentation of her material have all the hallmarks of a vocalist destined for bigger things.
While Sutton will be the Rosies’ vocal anchor, Tutu Puoane takes charge at the Moses Molelekwa stage. Now based in Belgium, Puoane’s appearance at the 2008 Cape Town International Jazz Festival is more of a homecoming. Born in Gauteng, Puoane spent years in Cape Town while studying at the University of Cape Town. It is during her stay at the home of the Cape Town International Jazz Festival that Puoane performed with artists such as Frank Paco, Jack van Poll and Marcus Wyatt. A 2004 recipient of the Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year Award for Jazz, Puoane is presently making a name for herself in Europe where she is the vocalist with the Frits Bayens Big Band in Holland. At the 2008 Cape Town International Jazz Festival, the 28-year old vocalist leads her own quartet made up of Belgian and Dutch musicians.
The three musicians backed her in her debut album Song, which is a mix of American standards and compositions by South African musicians such as Buddy Wells and Carlo Mombelli.
Puoane will certainly be an inspiration to members of the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Band (SBNYJB). She was the 1999 vocalist of the National Schools Big Band. Made up of nine young musicians and under the directorship of pianist Andrew Lilley from the University of Cape Town, the SBNYJB will definitely enchant festival goers as they demonstrate the abundance of musical talent among youth in South Africa. The nine band members were chosen in July 2007, out of 320 students who participated at the annual National Youth Jazz Festival in Grehamstown. While the Cape Town International Jazz Festival is a space for budding musicians such as the SBNYJB, the festival always honours evergreen bands that are known for longevity of their music. Three groups in next year’s line-up fall into this category. These are: The Manhattans, The Soul Brothers and The Four Sounds.
The Soul Brothers:
The Four Sounds feat Zelda Benjamin & Phyllis Madikwa:
Article based on a press release by Thompson n Team