I was fortunate enough to attend the 12th Annual Cape Town International Jazz Festival this past weekend. Known as Africa’s Grandest Gathering, it’s been rated the 4th best jazz festival in the world by many critics and it certainly lived up to its billing. 5 stages, over 40 artists, as well as crowds in excess of 35000 people were at the Cape Town International Convention Center on 25th and 26th of March.
As I walked in towards the Kippies stage, I recognised one of my favourite SA jazz tracks, ‘Harolds Bossa’ by the late Hotep Galeta covered wonderfully by the Cape Town Tribute Band which consisted of some South Africa’s finest jazz musicians. Errol Dyers also featured on guitar. Brilliant.
The band payed homage to South Africa’s fallen jazz legends (Hotep Galeta, Tony Schilder and Winston Mankuku to name but a few…) People were getting down. It was a great opener to the festival and I don’t think anyone wasn’t smiling.
Next up was Ivan Mazuse, a saxophonist/flautist from Mozambique on the Manenberg stage. Afro-Latin jazz fusion is the name of the game here. I had never heard him before but it was sounding hot. He had two female backup vocalists as well as a chick supporting him on tenor sax. A very interesting combo was the vocalists scatting the melodies along with Ivan’s sax, it made for a very cool sounding melody line. His pianist did an amazing electro synth solo which gave the otherwise organic sound a nice twist.
American Dave Koz was next, and he brought his full 5 piece band as well. He is known as one of the finest exponents of smooth jazz (which sometimes is zzzzzz). But this guy was really entertaining. I expected him to just stand there and play the songs but from the opening song I could tell this was gonna be special. He started playing Nkosi Sikeleli iAfrika, and the crowd went nuts and started singing along. He even sang a couple songs (which is new). They played music from his latest album ‘Hello Tomorrow’ and its surprisingly funky. Maybe it’s because his guitarist was ripping it up that night. A very cool surprise was when Dave called out BeBe Winans to perform ‘The Dance’. This is probably Dave’s most well known song in SA and the crowd was singing it back to BeBe. Amazing.
Next up was Wayne Shorter , arguably one of the world’s greatest living jazz composers. His quartet featured bassist John Patitucci, drummer Brian Blade, and pianist Danilo Perez. When you get a standing ovation before you even start playing then you got some skills. Their set was unlike anything I’ve ever heard in my life. Improvisation to the nth degree. I reckon this is one of the best jazz quartets in the world right now and I just sat there open-mouthed at the brilliance of these musicians. They played with virtually no boundaries, whenever a new idea popped up they went with it. History played out on that Rosie’s stage and I was fortunate enough to experience it.
Christian Scott, a New Orleans-born Grammy nominated trumpet player was up next. This guy won the Edison Award (The jazz equivalent of a Grammy) and he’s still in his 20s. His quintet consisted of Lawrence Fields (piano), Matt Stevens (guitar), Kris Funn (bass) and Jamire Williams (drums). These guys play some of the freshest, most unique music I’ve heard in a while. Poly-rhythms and dissonant chords combined with Scott’s breathy technique makes for a unique listening experience. And the music is not all jazz chords and nice arrangements either. They played a song called Danziger Bridge Massacre which was inspired by the massacre of the same name that occurred just after Hurricane Katrina. Google it and then listen to the song, you’ll see what I mean. The set was brilliant, the guitarist playing a pretty amazing solo on ‘Litany Against Fear’ with the drummer providing some intense rhythms all round.
Tortured Soul, from the USA, were probably the biggest hit of the night. They play house music, live. I don’t think they knew how much South Africans luuuurv house music. The three piece (Bass, drums, and keys with the drummer on vocals) kept it tight with well-timed syncopations and the typical house ‘break’ which was used to great delight of the crowd. The smooth vocals of the drummer also kept it nice and soulful.
A great first night to an amazing festival. Part 2 coming soon!
Tech it or leave it 😛