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26 May 2014
Cape Town Jazz Festival


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This year’s Cape Town International Jazz Festival offered the most impressive line-up this country has ever seen. Featuring quality artists in an awesome array that cut across genres, generations, countries and continents, it presented a balanced blend of musical brilliance.

And best of all, each of these acts are actually [or at very least by association], worthy of the title ‘jazz’ – and as a whole affirm that this form has a future!

Fundi’s may argue, but frankly, in finding a way forward, it’s time to toss the tightness. By returning jazz to its rightful roots, it can again reach everyday ears.

Probably most off-putting aspect was the prospect of sensory saturation – just the headlined names filled a page, and that’s without considering the established soloists amongst the accompanying musicians.

So, before embarking on what could easily become an aesthetic overdose, careful selection was essential.

Having previously had the honour of experiencing the magnificence of masters like Manu, Monty and Mankunku, I whittled my mission down to one grammy-award winning Omar Sosa.

Smitten by his recordings and his radical approach to what could academically still be contained [but hardly restrained], in the ‘jazz pianist’ compartment, I reconciled myself to accepting that if he was all I managed to see, I could return home happy.

And as fate would have it, he was one of the opening acts – and it later became symbolic that he started on the Moses Molelekwa stage, a pleasingly intimate venue with fine acoustics.

Although at the start, it was somewhat disturbing because it took theatre personnel a while to work out that it was entirely insensitive to allow late patrons entrance from the front, this was soon remedied. And only ‘those in the know’ were aware that there was some confusion at sound-check, which limited the use of the EFX usually attached to the instruments of maestro and his drummer.

But professionalism prevailed, and I was none-the-less transported by this turbaned guru of multi-dimensional musical integration!
the ‘exclusive’ Rosies auditorium hosted, amongst others, saxophonists like the veteran Andy Hamilton, and the Mozambican-born Moreira Changuito.

The Moreira Project took a while to get rolling, but built to a brilliant climax, which was rudely interrupted by the MC, who claimed he was told to cut the act, because : “…Terence Blanchard was up next!”

Though local excellence was again undermined in lieu of an albeit adept [but fairly smooth American], I left sufficiently stunned by the magnificence of Mark Fransman’s piano playing.

Also refreshing was the inclusion of seldom-seen acts like Unofficial Language, featuring the passion of Paul Hanmer; and Africa Mkhize is also a locally under-acknowledged genius, but his performances with Tlale Makhene and then Miriam Makeba are sure to have proved his worth.

Accompanying New York’s House music master, Louis Vega was a stylish Argentinian youngster, Dario Boente, who judging by his soon-to-be-released debut , is worth watching out for as a keyboard soloist.

Having absorbed much more than I possibly imagined, this year’s festival also filled me with something harder to find in a musically conservative country – I left with a sense of hope – for our appreciation of jazz, and for future festivals.


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