Posts Tagged ‘shane cooper’

Lionel Loueke performs in the DSG Hall in Grahamstown on 3 July 2015 at the 2015 National Arts Festival. Loueke is originally from Benin in West Africa but is currently living in New York. (Photo: CUEPIX/Kate Janse van Rensburg)

As I look back on this year’s Standard Bank Jazz Festival, I realise how much music I missed. But I had some great highs: Lionel Loueke’s exciting collaboration with four SA artists, whom he praised effusively on stage, was the stand-out gig for me. Vocalist Siya Makuzeni, flugelhorn/trumpet player Marcus Wyatt, bassist Shane Cooper, and drummer Ayande Sikade clearly loved working with this magical Benin-born guitarist.

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Before the Cape Town International Jazz Festival there was the North Sea Jazz Festival – Cape Town (don’t ask!). There I attended many of the workshops organised by the late Hotep Idris Galeta. The extraordinary contribution from a little-known Benin guitarist at one of these gatherings made us all sit up, and get up!

Since then Lionel (pronounced Leeon- ell) Loueke has made a considerable impact on the US jazz scene, being mentored by veteran jazz masters Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, who recognised both his talent and his uniqueness.

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Kyle Shepherd (left) and Shane Cooper (right)
hope to inspire young musicians.
Photo: Charles Harry Mackenzie

Kyle Shepherd and Shane Cooper are two of the 80 jazz artists who have taken the time to nurture the next generation of South African jazz stars at this year’s Youth Jazz Festival. “As a young musician, a festival like this is actually amazing, because chances are there are a few professional bands playing in the style you like,” says Shepherd, the 2014 Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for Jazz.

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The lights dim as Shane Cooper plucks the first note from his 40-year-old bass. The 2013 Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz leans over his instrument, looking at nothing else, his fingers flitting across the strings before using a bow to draw out a lingering, haunting note.

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The Standard Bank Jazz Festival, Grahamstown 2013 incorporates a variety of disciplines into their programme. The Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Festival takes place alongside a diverse programme that features Mainstream, Blues / Funk / World Music, Afro-Jazz, Modern Jazz and Youth.

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Chris Engel (sax), Africa Mkhize (piano), Shane Cooper (bass) and Ayanda Sikade (drums) are the Young Guns – four talented jazz musicians, who represent the future of South African jazz. Zinziswa Mani interviewed the artists and found what makes this collaboration swing.

This year’s Jazz Festival saw the exciting first-time collaboration of four of South Africa’s rising jazz stars. The combined energy and flair of Chris Engel (sax), Shane Cooper (bass), Afrika Mkhize (piano) and Ayanda Sikade (percussion) played to tapping feet and whoops of appreciation during Young Guns.

The untried collaboration – the brainchild of Jazz Festival director Alan Webster – produced a performance that brought each muso’s own tunes and styles to the fore. The result was a charged and sweaty performance which ignited the midnight crowd.

Webster explained his choice of artists for Young Guns: “Each of them is a brilliant, emerging young player… they’re all causing waves.” The quartet has regularly combined their talents and sounds, but the four had only played as a unit once before their performance – during a rehearsal that afternoon.

The Young Guns seemed pleased with the outcome of this music experiment. There is a definite sense of respect and camaraderie between the artists. “It was beautiful… these are three really incredible musicians,” said Engel. He added “…when playing with these guys you really feel like you’re getting to know them a little bit with every tune.”

Different stories, same love for music

The four represent the diverse faces of South African jazz. Cooper and Sikade are Eastern Cape boys, born in Port Elizabeth and Mdantsane respectively; Engel is from Cape Town; Mkhize was born in Durban and grew up in Johannesburg.

Cooper and Engel decided to take on music as a profession when in their mid-teens, while Mkhize and Sikade had little choice in becoming musicians. Mkhize is the son of well-known South African keyboardist Themba Mkhize who has played with the legendary bands Sakhile and Bayete. “There were always musical instruments lying around the house – to me that was normal, I thought that everybody grew up like that.” Sikade had a similar experience: “I grew up in music. It [music] is my life, it’s my calling.”

Despite their different entrances into music as a profession, music has always featured predominantly in all of their lives. Engel’s earliest musical memory is of his mother strumming her guitar to folk tunes as lullabies, while Cooper remembers listening to the sounds of Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell.

The new generation of jazz

The four provide a window into South African jazz in the 21st century. They are a breed of musicians who share and combine what Mkhize calls the “the oral culture and the theoretical culture of music.” Their collaboration is a sign of a changing South African jazz industry.

As Mkhize explains: “If we were all born in 1955, there was absolutely no way we could work together like this, we would have to leave the country. We can be here together and actually do it because it’s 2011.”

Billed as a snapshot of the future of South African jazz, pianist Bokani Dyer’s set last night delivered exactly that and more. Dyer was accompanied by Marcus Wyatt (trumpet), Buddy Wells (tenor sax), Chris Engel (alto), Angelo Syster (guitar), Shane Cooper (bass) and Ayanda Sikade (drums).

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