The (he)art of late night jazz

Afrika Mkhize. Photo: Suzy Bernstein

Late night jazz café sessions can often be a hit or miss affair. Should audiences expect a pick-up band jamming their way through well-worn standards – or innovative, original repertoire?When Swiss saxophonist Matthias Wenger and Swiss trombonist Andreas Tschopp share the stage with South African pianist Afrika Mkhize, bassist Shane Cooper and drummer Sphelelo Mazibuko you know you’re going to get eased into the (he)art of jazz improvisation.

The quartet dedicated their first song to Andile Yenana, the critically-acclaimed pianist who has become something of an elder statesman for South Africa’s new young jazz generation. The crowd understandably lit up, singing along when they discovered this homegrown legend was actually sitting among them.

The second performance by bassist Shane Cooper had everyone focused and attentively listening to every note of the 2013’s Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz winner’s nuanced improvisation on one of his own compositions.

For their finale, the group paid tribute to bassist Herbie Tsoaeli, performing a rendition of “Hamba No Malume” (off his contemporary classic African Time). This closing song enthralled the audience one last time, bringing to close a wonderful evening of jazz.

The group’s collaboration was well represented as every artist showed great group synergy, as well as a dedication to what they were doing. Their facial expressions and body language fully embodied their unquestionable passion for jazz.

Finally, one of the great things about any late night jazz café sessions is the opportunity to interact with the artists after the show. “Music has no colour, music has no face, music brings everyone from anywhere in the world together,” Sphelelo Mazibuko shared with Cue’s reporter. A perfect response to a thoroughly entertaining and enlightening session for this recent jazz convert.

The Standard Bank Jazz & Blues Café at Saints Bistro is running at 22:30 on Saturday 30 June and at 22:30 on Sunday 1 July.

By Zindzi Nkunzi