Uncategorized A genre-bending jazz

A genre-bending jazz

The 2010 Standard Bank Jazz Festival continues with what has become a successful – albeit familiar – programming formula; as in recent years, the Festival will be characterised largely by various combinations of South African and European jazz artists.

The regional and musical diversity of South African jazz is contrasted with performances by mostly cutting-edge exponents of the European scene: collaborations featuring both South Africans and Europeans will seek to demonstrate that jazz is a musical force that has the power to transcend most geographical and cultural boundaries.

Several of the South African combinations are regionally derived. On 22 and 23 June, stalwart saxophonists Robbie Jansen and Ezra Ngcukana are featured in what is billed as a Cape Jazz Spectacular. The rich seam of Eastern Cape jazz is similarly showcased on 30 June by way of a performance of the Eastern Cape All Stars, featuring – among others – trumpeter Feya Faku, bassist Lex Futshane and pianist Andile Yenana. This concert will pay tribute to the music written by Eastern Cape jazz composers over several decades.

Given that the Eastern Cape is one of South Africa’s poorest regions, many of its finest musicians – including the afore-mentioned All Stars – have had to seek their livelihood in more economically viable urban centres. It is creditable that the Jazz Festival seeks to reflect and, to some extent, redress this narrative. Nonetheless, jazz lovers who are willing to take a chance on what lies beyond the boundaries of the DSG Hall should take note of Bringing Back Johnny Dyani which lies buried in a much expanded Fringe programme.

Dyani was an Eastern Cape-born bassist and pianist who, in addition to being a member of the Blue Notes, South Africa’s first racially integrated jazz band, carved out a highly successful international career while in exile. Bringing Back Johnny Dyani is a tribute performance by two musicians who enjoyed a close association with Dyani prior to his years in exile: pianist Tete Mbambisa and Port Elizabeth-based saxophonist Patrick Pasha.

American pianist Darius Brubeck makes a welcome return to the Jazz Festival and will be appearing on 25 and 26 June with his long- time collaborator – alto saxophonist Barney Rachabane.

Brubeck did much to transform tertiary music education in South Africa and initiated the first jazz-oriented degree at the (then) University of Natal in 1983.

Pianist Perez peforming
The leading lights of the Eastern Cape All Stars are all former students of Brubeck, demonstrating how the programming of the Jazz Festival succeeds in presenting a genealogical representation of South African jazz. And that’s not all! There is an exciting deviation from the dominant European presence that generally characterises the international component of the Jazz Festival: renowned Panamanian pianist Danilo Perez performs twice on 24 June. His first concert will be in collaboration with Sibongile Khumalo, South Africa’s genre-bending doyenne of divas. If Khumalo’s past performances at the jazz festival are anything to judge by, it is likely that this concert will be hugely popular – you are advised to book early.

And if genre-bending is more to your taste then there is much on offer at this year’s Festival that should intrigue; not least a piece of theatre entitled Big Butt Girls, Hard Headed WomenM.

This production features live musical accompaniment by an artist whose “signature performance is his uncanny ability to combine tap dancing with playing his saxophone simultaneously”. A touch burlesque, perhaps, but it does indicate an off-centre slant on music that gets your toes tapping.

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