Articles

WHERE IS SOUTH AFRICAN JAZZ HEADING?

Where are the venues? I can’t do late nights! I really don’t understand this ‘improvisation’ thing – sounds like noise to me. These are comments heard from many who wish to support our local musical talents, but cannot find a comfort level with ‘jazz’. Rather, the uncertain keep gravitating to what they already know – that vibey afternoon restaurant with a blues guitarist, that music club nearby that plays electric or rock/pop.

While jazz enthusiasts, or those who would like to learn more, speculate about ‘how is jazz doing in South Africa’, curious and hopeful attitudes seem to be growing. Let’s hear from our Festival performers:

Pianist Bokani Dyer admits there are a lot of powerful young voices on the scene right now. He feels part of something, like being plugged into the rest of the world, with a new wave of younger musicians who are proud of their South African heritage and ready to explode it through the arts to other continents. For instance, Dyer is presently compiling for publication a more comprehensive South African ‘REAL’ book of compositions of musicians from all parts of the country. This would educate the public at large about these worthy artists and enable the less well known artists to present their profiles.

Saxophonist Buddy Wells really enjoys the directions which South African jazz is taking, with exciting young composers and players pushing the boundaries, like Reza Khota, Bokani Dyer, Kyle Shepherd, and the 2017 Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz, Benjamin Jephta, to name a few. Likewise, Bongani Sotshononda sees that bright future: “In the past 5 years,

Bongani Sotshononda at Native Yards

having been introduced to many extremely talented musicians, I can safely say that the world needs to watch this space. In the past, seasoned musicians from Europe and America at international jazz festivals used to scare us as these artists were on top of the game. Now, in my opinion, our local jazz musos, thanks to their dedication, are on par with some of the world’s best talents!”

Trombonist Jannie ‘Hanepoot’ van Tonder says SA jazz is going through a period of renewal, where a lot of young musicians are receiving an education which was not available 20 or 30 years ago. “Since the advent of jazz being taught at our universities (however limited or lacking in direction some of those programmes might be), the result has been a new generation of jazz musicians who can read and write, and even have qualifications to work at recognised institutions such as music schools and universities. This wave of education, together with the valuable work done by Capetown-based grassroots institutions like IMAD, The Little Giants, and the Delft Big Band, is bringing about a new era with many skilled young musicians practising and teaching their craft. Unfortunately, the lack of infrastructure and funding supports, amidst a seemingly corrupt government not able to grow the economy, minimizes opportunities to develop latent talents in music and the arts in general.

On the other hand, pianist Ramon Alexander is seeing how the young South African composers are digging deeper within themselves for a more personalized, individual sound that seems to steer from a local sound to a more globalized one.

         Ramon Alexander album

“In South Africa, like in America and Europe, you will always have the forward-thinking ‘Pioneers’ competing with the ‘Conservatives’, the preservers of tradition. I believe that if you have a balanced pool of both the ‘Pioneer’ and the ‘Conservative’, you will always have a wonderful, diverse body of work within our South African music community. Diversity is key.”
Warning! The ‘scouts’ in the corporate industries are enticing teenagers with fame and greed, says Jazz Yard Academy Chris Petersen. “We encourage the kids to be confident and to have faith in the goals they have set in life, but sometimes at performances, ‘scouts’ by-pass the JYA adult personnel and secretly approach the kids with financial offers. This is a scourge that makes it very difficult for us to keep the kids focused on the bigger picture. Yet, with more education for youth, particularly valuable interactions with the Cape jazz legends, we can ensure the proliferation and sustainability of Cape Jazz music worldwide.”

Muriel Marco

Singer/pianist Muriel Marco speculates whether the artist is freely exploring and playing for the audience, or is the artist playing for the market? “There has been a tremendous exploration beyond boundaries by the musicians, and supports for venues and festivals are growing. Unfortunately, there still isn’t a steady venue in Capetown that can support daily concerts.” The repetitive mantra from worried musicians continues to haunt: How can we creatively explore with our craft if the basic financial supports are hard to find?

In terms of the overseas market, there is heightened demand for South African jazz to collaborate, through performances, cultural exchanges, and workshops, with host country musicians and their educational institutions, according to saxophonist McCoy Mrubata. “Our music is being studied abroad and we are always asked to conduct workshops and master classes when we tour in other countries.” Likewise, trumpeter Keegan Steenkamp gets motivation from seeing his colleagues, as in his MSMF band, search for that stronger sense of direction in sounds and styles. “I see young musicians growing up to be less influenced by international trends and styles, it’s already happening, and the ripple effect has begun. My generation is partly a product of it. That consciousness in these young creatives is what I think will help bring back a bigger audience for South African music.”

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PART II: WHAT TO EXPECT TO HEAR AT MJF!

https://muizenbergjazzfestival.com/part-ii-what-to-expect-to-hear-at-mjf/

There’s another musical mix at this year’s inaugural Muizenberg Jazz Festival: youth showcasing their original compositions; Cape Ghoema; South American Latin; and Xhosa-Langa contemporary jazz!

A highlight on Friday evening is Argentinian Muriel Marco who will charm with her Latin jazz renditions. As a pianist and singer, Marco doesn’t cut corners. She explores how to engage several styles with traditional songs, thereby avoiding a singular sound. Hence, her ND Project – No Directions – means just that, a mix of salsa, Maskandi swing, contemporary improv , all moving that tango or native chacarera forward. Marco doesn’t like to keep things as they are. Her concert will, rather, offer an open, unrestricted spontaneity of expression, essentially with no directions or specific style.

On Saturday evening, as already discussed athttps://muizenbergjazzfestival.com/a-festival-of-contrasts-even-a-small-jazz-festival-can-have-wide-diversity/, American songstress, Yvette Norwood-Tiger, will bellow out the unique styles and scats of the Lady of Song, Ella Fitzgerald, as part of Norwood-Tiger’s world tour honouring this jazz legend.

Besides the excitement of teenage talents on stage, with the Jazz Yard Academy (JYA), already discussed in the same link above, expect some fireworks from the quartet, MSMF, led by trumpeter Keenan Steenkamp.

His well-trained fellow musicians from Mpumulanga, Eastern Cape, and Capetown will play interactive music with a sincerity and pride in their South African cultural heritage. Steenkamp also loves to compose, his songs very much highlighting the beauties of Muizenberg where he grew up and lives. How local is that!? MSMF exemplifies how the young guns coming out of Schools of Music wish to push their kind of jazz towards new boundaries in sound.

The roots-infected swing of Cape Ghoema also brings indigenous jazz styles to this festival. Pianist and composer, Ramon Alexander,pays respect to the jazz tradition of South Africa’s musical forefathers, such as favourites, pianist Ibrahim Khalil Shihab (previously known as Chris Schilder), Abdullah Ibrahim, and a host of others who are late. Alexander is a ‘disciple’ of this sub-genre, known as ‘Cape Jazz’, and will present his own originals along with songs from the above-named, all compiled in an exciting South African standard repertoire.

Following on the voice of South Africa’s contemporary music, both within the traditional and jazz veins, saxophonist McCoy Mburata has been deeply influenced by Xhosa traditional songs, which he grew up with, and fuses their styles and rhythms with contemporary improvisation. Results are electric and stimulating as Mburata and his band present a special Langa Township jive and swing which will elegantly paint a-proudly-South-African hew on this local-is-lekker Jazz Festival.

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Muizenberg Jazz Festival: Part II: What’s Special about the Muizenberg Jazz Festival offerings?

The jazz artists performing at this year’s maiden voyage Muizenberg Jazz Festival (MJF) have performed on prominent South African and international stages, and at the Capetown International Jazz Festival (CTIJF), considered one of the most prestigious international jazz festivals in the world.

Economies of scale run high for these large volume and often congested stages. They usually risk the regular early sell-out of weekend pass tickets before one blinks an eye after ticket sales open for business. Admittedly, large music festivals like the CTIJF, boasting some 35,0000 plus ticket-holders annually, bring welcomed funds to the wider municipality, temporary jobs that curate the festival operations, and, for some listeners, earaches during and after gigs.  For those not listening, there’s still revelry just in the vibe, familiar sounds, and the comradery of finding among the masses likeminded appreciative and exuberant festinos.    MJF invites all to experience the same…plus…..

There’s another way to enjoy the music….in the spirit of festive revelry…

The MJF will take over the accessible Masque Theatre on Muizenberg’s Main Road, known for its historic community centeredness in providing popular theatre to Capetown residents.  Here, in  this relatively ‘small’ space which seats about 165 patrons, an illustrious line up of performances and workshops promise to bring high quality of art to the music lovers.  [See the Programme on the website]

Small jazz/music festivals bring harmony and understanding amongst festinos who otherwise might not be exposed, or have opportunities to learn, about ‘the other’ neighbourhoods in the Cape’s wide cultural diversity.  “Small” means intimate, accessible, participatory, and affordable without having one’s ears blown out from loud amplification.  Festinos can rub shoulders with the crafters and artists, talk about their music, and easily purchase CDs or digital albums at discounted prices.  They can meet the supportive local leaders who attend the various activities, and even offer constructive feedback about their likes/ dislikes in life, politics, community-run initiatives, etc.

Well, why ‘jazz’, and not rock/pop/classical/electro-funk?  Well, guess what?  ‘Jazz’ improvises on all of those genres, pulling them into a harmonic and rhythmic soundscape, with feet-stomping nourishment for the soul.  Driven by worthy local talents to do this, not only in the Cape, but within South Africa and beyond, jazz offerings from local bands crisscross cultural and ethnic boundaries, and make exciting renditions of songs, familiar and unfamiliar.

For the international offerings, Ella Fitzgerald lovers will be enraptured by Norwood-Tiger’s renditions on Saturday night, the 14th.  Tributes to South African musical legends will impress audiences with admirable young talents proudly displayed by the Jazz Yard Academy on Friday, the 13th.

For these reasons, the MJF aims to provide enriching exposure with a sense of intimacy, comradery, and enlightening soundsCapes (a term coined by Cape guitarist Steve Newman) that depict just what our artistic communities are producing right under our noses. Even young and not-so-young will enjoy the Saturday afternoon music workshops offered by three notable musicians in our ‘hoods’.  The hustle and bustle of The Masque Theatre will come alive as the artists showcase high quality music in less competitive and more convivial spaces with audiences that listen and digest.

The Masque Theatre is at 37 Main Road, Muizenberg.

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Muizenberg Jazz Festival is Comin’ to the Suburbs: Part I: The Value of Small Arts/Culture Festivals

For jazz aficionados, and others, Friday/Saturday 13/14 October 2017 lights up Muizenberg’s Masque Theater for the first Jazz Festival in this peninsular community, boasting ten reputable bands, a photo exhibition, and Saturday afternoon mentoring workshops! See www.muizenbergjazzfestival.com for tickets and details.

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One thinks of small arts and music festivals as just fun and friendly and cheap? Well, yes they are, but much more. They infuse understanding and appreciation for the local and visiting talents, crafts and craftiness of a local culture seeking not only to have its voice heard, but to inspire the participating masses in more intimate ways.

What do festival-goers, or festinos, want in their local community-initiated festivals? Festinos need to make decisions about how they wish to attend a festival, first, looking at the time spent on a weekend, choosing this over that, feeling spontaneous (or not) to join events, and looking at what costs might be for little Vuyo’s chocolate ice-cream or Dad’s wish to attend that 8pm jazz gig at the Masque Theatre, or Mom’s urgency to buy that gorgeous embroidered bag which she really doesn’t need. Just planning for that family festive outing can be overwhelming; yet manageable in terms of economies of scale.

Smaller festivals can facilitate so many reactions and outcomes:

 Showcasing the artist’s work up close and personal, particularly those who are less well known but significant movers of a craft or style, and providing display stalls without paying exorbitant rentals for space.

 Interactions and sharing: people from all walks of life can more easily share their experiences, enthusiasms, and learnings with each other through informal eateries, and smaller listening venues that also cater to food craft, wine, and even books. It’s heritage time and communities often talk proudly about their histories, legends, and accomplishments.

 Escape reality: You can escape from life’s pressures and defy routine for a weekend of fun without feeling (too) guilty; sing along to a song being performed; satisfy your inner child yearnings or passion for home-made chocolates and curries, or gluten-free breads. (And risk more easily being seen indulging in these small desires!) Even wear what you want without having to gloss and glitter!

 Give constructive feedback: Often times, there’s instant feedback to performers from audience reactions, if audiences are smaller in number and able to be heard (for instance, mingling with artists after a show; getting signed autographs; sharing impressions with one’s immediate neighbour at a venue, or displaying emotions about a song being performed. Communities can be inspired to plan and plot together for future promotional schemes as well.

 Marketing of local artistic talents through small markets, workshops, hands-on mentoring events, etc. whereby services or products are made available to the curious seeker. In the case of the Muizenberg Jazz Festival, a festival markets historic buildings, such as the 100+ year old Masque Theater, as part of raising awareness of the areas’ socio-cultural heritage.

Importantly, the financial rewards from small festivals to the independent entrepreneurs, artists, and home industries must be noted, too, as visitors devour the sought-after crafts not usually found in their own neighbourhoods. Independent vendors and producers are rarely side-lined amongst the hungry mobs.

So how can the Muizenberg Jazz Festival benefit from it’s offerings on 12-13 October, 2017? See Part II.

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LISTENING VENUES SUPPORT LIVE MUSIC ARTS- Rootspring at Novalis Ubuntu Institute, Wynberg, Capetown

Rootspring presented at Novalis Ubuntu Institute on 8 July, 2017, a dramatic full moon concert of serenity featuring singer Indwe on traditional Xhosa- bow, with an exciting percussion duo, ‘Intone’ made up of tabla and dirigidoo player, Ronan Skillen, and James van Minnen on skin and box drums and other percussion.

Intimate staging at Novalis Ubuntu Institute

Intimate staging at Novalis Ubuntu Institute

Singer Indwe

                        Singer Indwe in cave

Van Minnen’s thesis is that lower-frequency instruments producing sounds of earth and nature are soothing to babies in utero and outside the womb, and to pregnant women.

The two gentlemen came together recently to revive their 17-year history exploring similar soundscape interests:  van Minnen invited Skillen to come and play in a coastal cave north of Capetown. Not surprisingly, given the spiritual yin-yang balance of these two men, their musical purpose was to honour motherhood and femininity.

Intone percussion instruments  Intone percussion instruments

Ronan Skillan & dirigidoo in cave

   Skillen exploring dirigidoo sounds in cave

Supported by neurological research, he says such sounds would favourably activate the baby’s brain waves with pleasant resonance from the cave space and acoustic instruments. The two-CD album, called The Cave Project: Meditations and Lullabies, was thus recorded over a three-day period in this found cave. Fascinating and explicit photos and videos on the making of this unusual sound project are worth digesting, at http://rootspring.co.za/the-cave-project-lullabies-meditations/

3-in-a-cave

                              3-in-a-cave

The music is about human connections, meditatively explored from the roots of our being. The Novalis evening was choreographed with standing candles lighting the prepared round stage in the middle of this oval interior. The audience seating completed this roundness. The building’s dome facilitated the excellent acoustic sounds from voice, bow, and percussion instruments with minimal amplification. To enable a cave decorum, pre-recorded sounds from inside the cave – birds chirping, bats flying, water rustling – accompanied the live performance, creating an extraordinary ambiance of serenity.

The Institute is known as being a quiet, meditative space for courses and workshops of a developmental nature, hosted by various NGOs and community groups. This writer has enjoyed many full-moon evening meditations in this spiritually uplifting space. This full moon evening on 9 July was nothing short of magical.

James van Minnen & Ronan Skillan outside their cave

James van Minnen & Ronan Skillen outside their cave

Rootspring Conscious Music is the brain-child of its Producer, the well-known musician, Jonny Blundell, whose music label promotes ‘world music’ by local South African musicians with ethnic bents. He was drawn to The Cave Project because “it features musicians playing instruments that are generally traditional ethnic instruments. It also appealed to us because of the unusual combination of musicians and certainly because of the unusual location! Recording in a cave was a first for us.”

The Cave Project: Meditations & Lullabies is available from www.rootspring.co.za

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The unique Blue Note at Sea Jazz Cruise haunts the Caribbean

From 4 -11 February 2017, this maiden voyage of the ‘Blue Note at Sea’ out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was the third back-to-back jazz cruise for some 6000 like-minded passengers organized by Entertainment Cruise Productions (ECP), a slick and well-experienced company having run over 60 full ship programs all over the world for decades. Named after the sponsoring jazz record label, the Blue Note cruise was hosted by the Blue Note Records President, Don Was, and program-managed by the very personable bassist, Marcus Miller, with interviews conducted by the fusion saxophonist extraordinaire, David Sanborn.

On stage: Dave Sanborn, Wycliff Gordon, Marcus Miller

On stage: Dave Sanborn, Wycliff Gordon, Marcus Miller

Don Was interviewing Gregory Porter

Don Was interviewing Gregory Porter

 

Marcus Miller interviewing Diane Reeves

Marcus Miller interviewing Diane Reeves

Obviously, the artists featured on this cruise were all Blue Note labelled who could easily promote the brand. They were not only dons in their own jazz genre over the ages (aka decades) in American jazz circles, but were buddies, having mixed and matched their talents with various band configurations that promoted their own individual creativity over time, domestically as well as internationally. The offerings for 7 nights constituted one long well delivered type of ‘jam session’ starting from 5pm each day and lasting until well after 1am, as performers moved from one stage to another, remarkably (by the organizers) with very little overlap in schedules. Most bands borrowed each other’s artists, almost incestuously. And most performers could stay on the ship during the whole cruise with the exception of one or two. The only ‘oh-shucks’ moment came when four artists had to leave the ship early in order to travel to the Los Angeles-based Grammy Awards ceremony where their nominations translated into awards. These were, not surprisingly, multi-Grammy award recipients: Cuban pianist Chucho Valdes, pianist Robert Glasper (USA), singer Gregory Porter(USA), and singer Lalah Hathaway.

Lalah Hathaway

Lalah Hathaway

Chucho Valdez on stage

Chucho Valdez on stage

A major import to this USA-based cruise was the exciting London-based Ronnie Scotts’ House Band which featured the thrilling singer, Natalie Williams, who unashamedly took late-nighters through energetic jam sessions in the appropriately named ‘Revelations’ Lounge. They also kicked off the music at day 1 disembarkation at the pool side,

Natalie Williams at poolside

Natalie Williams at poolside

What swelled for the following days and evenings were not the seawaves, but the swing, the cool sounds of jazz all over the ship. Another ‘house’ band which entertained, but incurred unfortunate time conflicts, was the Celebrity X Summit House Band led by South African-born, New Zealand- resident, Andrea Lisa who sang as well as played guitar. They offered youthful bursts of improvisations, a bit of rock and pop, and danceable songs that pleased the seasoned crowd.

Rubbing shoulders with the artists before and after their gigs, and taking selfies with these celebrities was permitted, but not interviews, at least formal ones. This is America’s music industry – one must work through the musicians’ agents. Nevertheless, Marcus Miller was easy to find wandering the ship

Program Manager Marcus Miller

Program Manager Marcus Miller

 

and availing his friendly self to passing chats with passengers, as were other artists when their time and energies permitted. Most, however, remained a bit hidden from the masses, and for due reason, many preparing for their daily gigs.

Energy is key on an event-filled cruise like this. Sleeping ‘late’ might mean missing a morning shore excursion in San Juan, or opportunity to just walk around on the sands of Haiti’s Labadee island (exclusive only to cruise ships) and enjoy the sea breezes. One might forsake those hefty lunches or dinners in order to slip away for a power nap (on the beach or cabin bed) that recharges for the evening rackets.

Most cruises offer choices of activities, but for the music lover, the jazz never stopped.

The Horns talk to us

The Horns talk to us

Marcus Miller, Dave Sanborn, and Don Was held interviews with featured musicians which took the listener to realms of the artist’s creativity not well known or previously broadcast.

The youngest on board, 23-year old saxophonist, Grace Kelly, held her own amongst these legends with grand poise.

Besides individual interviews, instrumental groups had their say, my favourite being the drummer group made up of the indomitable Greg Hutchinson, Miller’s drummer, Greg Bailey, The Bad Plus’s energetic drummer, Dave King, and the awesome Billy Kilson.

The drummers talk to us

The drummers talk to us

Sanborn’s conversational style steered the chats well, inserting his own multi-layered experiences playing with the various musicians. Bountiful stories emerged, adding dimensions of wit and depths of learning about what jazz and improvisation in the music industry is all about.

Day 1 set the pace with a blue-skyed Saturday, Feb 4, as the 2100 passenger Celebrity Summit left the Fort Lauderdale port to slowly steam eastward first to the Bahamas, then on to Puerto Rico. I didn’t have time to gape out of my ocean view cabin as there were other things to do, like listen to live jazz! As I got into the elevator, I tripped over Gregory Porter’s little boy wallowing on the elevator flour and heard Porter’s sonorous voice announce to fellow passengers how ‘this naughty boy’ is giving him a hard time!

Gregory Porter by poolside

Gregory Porter by poolside

Porter excused himself as he and child exited the elevator and wished us all good times! Later, I reminded Gregory how we met at Johannesburg’s Standard Bank Joy of Jazz festival a few years back, something he well remembered. What I recall back then, as I sat at his rehearsal led by conductor and trumpeter Marcus Wyatt, was the band waiting some 45 min for Porter to arrive! Apparently his manager was not informed of the exact time of this important rehearsal for that evening’s performance!! Oh well….. Noone would have known!

During disembarkation at 4pm sharp, the poolside was bustling as the Ronnie Scott’s All-Stars kicked off the 7 day festival. Boy, did that set the pace! I took some videos of that fun bash, took free celebratory drinks on hand, then popped down to the Rendezvous lounge for Joshua Redman and his group – it was his drummer Greg Hutchinson that blew me away.

Joshua Redman

Joshua Redman

He later played with the Peter Martin’s trio. At that point, after this energetic set, I didn’t care where I was going…..I was just going with that jazz flow!! The Greek-born, Ecuador-resident Captain Alex told us where we were going in his comical and zesty way. He was clearly into the vibe as well. Robert Glasper’s trio came on next at the main Celebrity Theater stage at 9pm.

Robert Glasper on stage

Robert Glasper on stage

Thanks to Glasper’s usual comic wit and not too subtle digs at his own fame and fortune, we enjoyed his self-toasting and, at times, roasting. This evening kick-off was just the beginning of evening sessions happening throughout the week which witnessed artists whimsically indulging in comical presentation about their often erratic mis-notes and fancy feelings about their own artistry, all in the name of entertainment. And it was.

 

Wycliff Gordon with Marcus Miller on stage

Wycliff Gordon with Marcus Miller on stage

Drummer Dave King with The Bad Plus on stage

Drummer Dave King with The Bad Plus on stage

Around 10.30pm, I wonder up to the 11th floor’s Revelations Lounge which becomes the Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club at sea, a small intimate venue for good listening and interactions. The Cuban trio of Harold Lopez-Nussa were performing, his brother on drums and a younger up and coming double bassist blowing me away. Boy, was this place humming with its blue ceiling lighting and purple hues that matched my jersey. Yeah, it was air conditioned and ‘chilly’, maybe around 20 degrees C, in spite of the warm(er) air outside. The cocktail booklet greeted my table with $10 drinks. Lopez’s melodic piano and his percussionist sitting on his box drum pounding away with a soft salsa was a welcomed change from Glasper’s philosophic and intense solo piano. By 11pm I was already on overload – but bassist Marcus Miller and Grammy-award singer, Lalah Hathaway, were just starting on the large theatre stage!

Lalah Hathaway on stage

Lalah Hathaway on stage with saxophonist Alex Han

What would the rest of the week be like, I pondered nervously, wondering if my age and beauty could keep up with it all!! It was a very sound sleep that followed after midnight. I was reaching the beginnings of my musical nirvana….

See more photos at: www.bluenoteatsea.com/gallery-2017

Sunset clouds

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Episode #2 The Sweet Divinity of Life: Musically Smiling with Al Jarreau….

“Down South in Africa,” sings Al Jarreau. He explains: “where the little bougainvillea winds around the big jacaranda tree as they become one with us, sun, and nature.” This masterful singer emphasized, “And this is YOUR story, class”, as he waved his lyrics page at us journalists (who were given copies) during his press conference at the CTIJF a few weeks ago.

“I should have named my album ‘Jacaranda Bougainvillea’ rather than ‘All I Got’ after my visit to South Africa in 2001, when I saw this transformation taking place …. It excited my band and I to write this piece.” To Jarreau, it’s a “lavender dream, the envy of orchids, when it’s dressed in a pink and fuchsia twine”. He launched this song at the 2002 North Sea Jazz Festival in Holland which also had a ‘South African’ stage. See the lyrics at the end of this article.

Al Jarreau performing at CTIJF on 29 March 2015. Credits:  NetworxPR

Al Jarreau performing at CTIJF on 29 March 2015. Credits: NetworxPR

Listening to this beautiful song on YouTube, one becomes mesmerized with the sweet divinity Jarreau attaches to the smallest of beings. As we chatted in his hotel, I discovered a deeply spiritual and compassionate Al Jarreau that could defy his otherwise contorting body and face when masterfully delivering his stage performance.

CM: At your press conference, you handed out the lyrics of your ‘Jacaranda Bougainvillea’ song. Talk about that.
AJ: You know, I was hoping some journalist would ask me some questions about this song which I and my band wrote after our South African performances in 2001. For instance, there’s this verse: ‘Oh Mandela, that garden that you made is a vision of the prayer you must have been prayin’ every day.’ What did you mean there, Al? And I would have replied, “Way down South in Africa. Look at the jacaranda tree huggin’ the Bougainvillea.” That song is thick with message. It was a very important song about what you can export from your past experiences – the political transition out of separate-ness and towards one-ness. That’s more important than the friggin’ gold, or the DeBeers Mine. I should have shouted it out when I was at the conference table.

CM: You performed the song at the Festival, but I think it went beyond people’s heads at that huge stage with several thousand howling people!
AJ: Yes, the sound on the stage was not good for my repertoire this year. The stage needed more of a listening crowd. I think the song is too subtle, too. It needs more exposure.

Jarreau performing at CTIJF on 29 March 2015. Credits:  NetworxPR

Jarreau performing at CTIJF on 29 March 2015. Credits: NetworxPR

Jarreau is a Seer: His reflections about 2015 CapeTown, noted on his website blog, say, “Here there’s something more relaxed and comfortable but far beyond that is the friendly and joyous spirit of the people. And if you look closely you can see an infectious kind of joy and hopefulness of the mind and heart….” Even though he considered himself ‘late to the party’ of the 16th CTIJF this year, his first appearance, he is convinced: “these [Capetownians] were brown skin people just like me who have found something special…some joy and gratitude for life and breath at the moment and big expectations about the future.”

Well, while many Capetownians might dispute this rosy announcement by an enthusiastic outsider, Jarreau’s own evolving life story seems to also reflect a joyous continuum. But it hasn’t always been easy for him….

CM: You had mentioned how you have gotten off your addictions to attend to your health.
AJ: I had to get out of the Whiskey and Bourbon drinking. Now, when I’m close to a bar, there’s a horrible smell…from those alcohols! I drank and smoked a lot, but had to let them go for my general health. And boy, am I unhappy!! (Hah Hah!) So ask me if I’m doing better? NO!! (Hahahaha) I only quit five years ago and boy, am I bored!! Hahahah!

CM: Has your creativity been compromised at all?
AJ: The creativity continues with different stuff to consider. We’re part of this surviving thing. It’s called being-ness, it’s called life, and presence …. what we see and what we comment about out there in the universe and on our planet. My vision has cleared a bit more in that way and I’m moving towards this immortality, and feeling more strongly about immortality, and about who we are, and there’s no such thing as death, which is a misnomer. We just move on and we’re part of this continuing thing which gets better.

CM; Perhaps you’re talking about the ‘past life’, or re-incarnation…?
AJ:  Yes, yes. I don’t know much about that or studied the Hindu and Asian religions, but all those little influences coming into my life from time to time make sense to me. It becomes clearer to me that there is a ‘first cause’, a first something out of which everything came. And today our scientists and cosmologists are beginning to point at it. We talk about it as God. It doesn’t exclude God when cosmologists say ‘it began with a big bang’.

CM: Which leads me to a point: Is jazz as spiritual as it should be? Or is it going into another sexy, material, money issues, gain-what-you-can world?
AJ: That is the danger of all human activity, and jazz is part of it. Song and music writing used to have more soul in it, at a point where it was really connected to survival-ness. Like, early jazz musicians were very close to the soil, to the earth, to growing crops. Raking and picking crops for ‘survival-ness’. As we move away from that sort of society, where the work is done more by machines, we lose that connection to survival-ness. Music is successful because it is the spoiled brat of the arts. Dancers don’t do as well as musicians, never have and never will. Also, painters….and sculptures in the arts. Billions and billions of dollars are made on music and on what musicians have created. And why? Because music is real close to the heart beat. ‘Do don, do don, do don….’[mimicking a heartbeat]. You felt the beat before you even got here, in the wound, real close. And hearing the blood go ‘whisss whisss whisss’. We listened to those sounds before we got here. That’s got to be why music is so close to us and captures us immediately.
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Well, I’m going to ‘do don’ and ‘whisss’ myself away to listen to and review Jarreau’s latest album celebrating his old friend, George Duke, and craft my next Episode #3 for this blog. Happy lavender dreams to all! Here are the moving lyrics of ‘our story’:

“Jacaranda Bougainvillea”

Oh what a dream, Oh what a story.
Don’t have to weep, Come and enjoy a smile.
Opening scene is just like a doorway.
Here’s a story, in rhythm and rhyme.

There is a tree on the street and in the forest.
Lavender dream whispered a poet.
Bright potpourri. The envy of orchids,
When it’s dressed in a pink and fuchsia twine.
Jacaranda tree and the Bougainvillea vine.

Oh Mandela, that garden that you made,
Is a vision of the prayer, you must’ve been prayin’ everyday.
Sweet Azaleas, every color every kind.
And the first and the last are all divine.

There is a dream of the trees and of the flowers.
There is a season of peace at the borderline…
Where we’re redeemed and history will crown us.
Jacaranda tree and Bougainvillea vine.

Oh Mandela, would you say that it’s alright?
When the children play they always say, they say that we were like
Cinderella, in your garden there’s a shrine,
To the first and the last they’re all divine.

One and all, big and small, a common birth.
Each and every child for all his worth.
Take the one who’s always last and make him first.
Take these seeds. Seed the earth.

[OUTRO:]
Comin’ along,
Oh what a long way we have come.
Comin’ along,
Makin’ a home for everyone.
Comin’ along, way down South in Africa
Look at (Study) the Jacaranda tree huggin’ the Bougainvillea

[REPEAT OUTRO X4]

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It’s all happening today, tune in and listen

The season has started to turn here in the Mother City, Cape Town, there is a definite chill in the early morning air, but who gives a damn about that when there’s hot jazz to be heard on Africa’s best and only 24/7 all genre Jazz, Blues, Latin and World Jazz radio station online. Go to www.alljazzradio.co.za and choose the link you’d like to “tune in” to and download the link to your smartphone, computer or tablet and take us with you on your day’s journey. Its a good way to enjoy great music wherever you may be. Listen in today, here what’s coming up from 10am C,A.,T.;

10:00 to 11:00- THE JAZZ RENDEZVOUS RADIO PINOTAGE & COFFEE STOKVEL CLUB

(A mixed genres show of the latest International and SAFRO album releases from the global village)

Compiled & produced by AJR Staff in Cape Town, SA

11:00 – 11:15 LONDON JAZZ NEWS BLOG CHAT

(Latest jazz news from Europe with the influential weekly London Jazz News Blog editor Sebastian Scotney)

Weekly talk segment covering the European jazz scene from London, UK

11:15 – 14:00 JAZZ RENDEZVOUS

(A mixed genres show of the latest International and SAFRO album releases from the global village)

Compiled & produced by AJR Staff in Cape Town, SA

14:00 – 16:00 MZANTZI (South) AFRICAN JAZZ

(100% South African Jazz recordings made up of any number of SAFRO musicians in the band from all corners of the global village)

Compiled & produced by AJR Staff in Cape Town, SA

16:00 – 18:00 THE CAPITAL JAZZ CLUB

(Eclectic mix of Acid. Funk, Progressive, Fusion Jazz)

Compiled, Produced and presented by Jack Ojiambo in Nairobi, Kenya

Don’t forget our special daily re-broadcast programming which starts from 6pm C.A.T. so you won’t miss a moment of the music.

Connect with us on Skype or call our studio on Viber,

Enjoy the best Jazz, Blues, Latin and World jazz from the African Jazz Capital all day everyday.

 

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….. and the big winners are – The 2015 Grammy Awards

JAZZ AND RELATED CATEGORIES

BEST TRADITIONAL POP VOCAL ALBUM
 Cheek To Cheek 
Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga
 Label: Streamline/Columbia/RPM/Interscope

BEST CONTEMPORARY INSTRUMENTAL ALBUM
 Bass & Mandolin
 Chris Thile & Edgar Meyer 
Label: Nonesuch

BEST NEW AGE ALBUM 
Winds Of Samsara
 Ricky Kej & Wouter Kellerman
Label: Listen 2 Africa

BEST IMPROVISED JAZZ SOLO
 Fingerprints 
Chick Corea, soloist
 Track from: Trilogy (Chick Corea Trio)
 Label: Concord Jazz

BEST JAZZ VOCAL ALBUM
 Beautiful Life 
Dianne Reeves
Label: Concord Records

BEST JAZZ INSTRUMENTAL ALBUM 
Trilogy
 Chick Corea Trio
 Label: Concord Jazz

BEST LARGE JAZZ ENSEMBLE ALBUM 
Life In The Bubble
 Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band
 Label: Telarc International

BEST LATIN JAZZ ALBUM
 The Offense Of The Drum
 Arturo O’Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra 
Label: Motema

BEST BLUES ALBUM 
Step Back
 Johnny Winter
 Label: Megaforce Records

BEST WORLD MUSIC ALBUM
Eve
 Angelique Kidjo 
Label: 429 Records

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John Scofield Returns To The Scene Of The Jam | Jazz24

John Scofield

John Scofield Returns To The Scene Of The Jam | Jazz24

If you sample the first few notes of guitarist John Scofield‘s new album, Uberjam Deux, you might mistake it for something out of West Africa. But a spin through the tracks takes you to another hemisphere with a sound right out of Jamaica, then to American shores with a soulful homage to Al Green.

The musical paths may be well-trodden, but the sound of Scofield’s guitar is unique. He’s a player with serious jazz cred, having played with everyone from Miles Davis to Charles Mingus to Herbie Hancock. The first Überjam record was released in 2002, and for Überjam Deux he’s brought back some of the original players, including rhythm guitarist Avi Bortnick and B3 Organ player John Medeski. Scofield speaks here with NPR’s Linda Wertheimer; click the audio link to hear more of their conversation.

via John Scofield Returns To The Scene Of The Jam | Jazz24.

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Earth, Wind & Fire Announce New Album Release

Earth, Wind & Fire are returning with a new album, Now, Then, & Forever, out September 10th. This marks the legendary group’s first new LP in eight years and first original album for Legacy Recordings. The band includes founding member Maurice White, as well as Ralph Johnson, Philip Bailey, Verdine White. The album has contributions from producer Larry Dunn and Bailey’s son Philip Bailey Jr. The first single, “My Promise” sounds classic, what a summer jam! Fans who pre-order the record will have their personal names printed in the CD’s final packaging. Stream EWF’s new single and check out the tracklist below.

Now, Then & Forever Tracklist

01. Sign On

02. Love Is Law

03. My Promise

04. Guiding Lights

05. Got To Be Love

06. Belo Horizonte

07. Dance Floor

08. Splashes

09. Night Of My Life

10. The Rush

via Earth, Wind & Fire Announce New Album Release + “My Promise” Okayplayer.

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City of Chicago :: Blues Festival Headliners Travel Up The Mississippi To Chicago

Shemekia Copeland

Shemekia Copeland

The Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) is pleased to announce the headliners for the 30th Annual Chicago Blues Festival: Shemekia Copeland, Bobby Rush, Irma Thomas, Jimmy Johnson, Otis Clay, The Bar-Kays, Eddie Floyd, Sir Mack Rice and a multigenerational Chicago blues showcase finale featuring James Cotton, Lil’ Ed and Billy Branch, among others, closing the festival on Sunday. Admission is free.

Thursday, June 6: Opening Night in Millennium Park

Announced in February, the festival will open for the first time at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park on June 6. Shemekia Copeland will headline the evening with special guest, blues guitar prodigy and Buddy Guy collaborator Quinn Sullivan. The evening will begin at 6:30 p.m. with openers Fernando Jones’ Blues Kids of America followed by Jamiah on Fire & the Red Machine.

Moving to Grant Park for the weekend, the festival is “Rollin’ Up the River” to celebrate the blues with a musical journey up the Mississippi River. During the great migration from the south in the 1940s and 1950s, the “delta blues” landed in Chicago establishing the genre’s electric guitar sound known as the “Chicago blues” style. The voyage will start in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Mississippi on Friday; then continue on to Memphis, Tennessee, and St. Louis, Missouri, on Saturday; ending in Chicago on Sunday, where the blues electrified the world.

Read more at City of Chicago :: Blues Festival Headliners Travel Up The Mississippi To Chicago.

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Jazz Articles: What to See at the Montreal Jazz Festival – By Jim Harrington — Jazz Articles

It’s hard to go wrong at the Montreal International Jazz Festival.

The 10-day festival, set for June 28-July 7 in downtown Montreal, is once again absolutely bursting with great options. The 2013 offerings include such jazz giants as Wayne Shorter and Charles Lloyd, top pop acts like Feist and Belle & Sebastian and celebrated performers hailing from many other genres.

Charles Lloyd | Dorothy Darr

Charles Lloyd | Dorothy Darr

Yet, you can’t see everything, right? (Although, some will surely try.) So, we’ve come up with this guide to some of the best options for those bound for Montreal this year.

Here are 10 can’t-miss shows, organized by date:

Read more at Jazz Articles: What to See at the Montreal Jazz Festival – By Jim Harrington — Jazz Articles.

 

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Anat Cohen and Her Jazz Clarinet – NYTimes.com

Anat Cohen and Her Jazz Clarinet

Anat Cohen and Her Jazz Clarinet

In search of some live Brazilian music a few months ago, I found my way to Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, in the Time Warner Center, where the Brazilian percussionist Duduka Da Fonseca was leading a quintet. I can’t say I knew much about Mr. Da Fonseca before I heard his band that night, and among the things I didn’t know was that his quintet’s regular reed player was a 38-year-old Israeli woman named Anat Cohen, who has lived in New York since 1999.

On the first few tunes of the set — mostly the kind of fast-paced, Brazilian-tinged jazz I’ve always loved — Ms. Cohen played the reed instrument most closely associated with postwar jazz: the tenor saxophone. It was immediately apparent that she was a terrific musician, fluid, full-throated, with a knack for creating beautifully crafted, even eloquent solos. Around the fifth song, however, the quintet began playing “Chorinho pra Ele,” a simple, infectious samba by Hermeto Pascoal, the great Brazilian multi-instrumentalist. And that’s when Ms. Cohen did something you rarely see a jazz reed player do these days. She took out her clarinet.

As good as her saxophone playing was, Ms. Cohen on the clarinet was a revelation. Using the clarinet’s upper register, she could evoke infectious joy. In the lower register, her playing could conjure a deep, soulful melancholy. On up-tempo numbers, her improvisations weren’t just bebop fast; they had a clarity and deep intelligence that is really quite rare. She made it look effortless, even as she was playing the most technically difficult of all the reed instruments. She only played a handful of songs on the clarinet that night, but every time she did, she took my breath away.

Read more at Anat Cohen and Her Jazz Clarinet – NYTimes.com.

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International Jazz Day 2013 | United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

International Jazz Day 2013

International Jazz Day 2013

Spurred by the success of the first celebration, UNESCO, in partnership with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz (TMIJ) will be organizing the second International Jazz Day on April 30th, 2013. This day is destined to raise awareness in the international community regarding jazz’s virtues as an educational tool, as a vehicle for peace, unity, dialogue, and for enhanced cooperation between peoples.

The year 2013 marks the beginning of the International Decade for People of African Descent, consecrated to the theme, “Recognition, justice and development for people of African heritage.” This constitutes yet another highlight of the event that the United Nations will surely support. Africa, whence jazz draws its origins, will thus be doubly honoured this year.

Istanbul is the official host city for 2013. Turkey has an age-old tradition of jazz. Munir Ertegun, Turkish Republic’s first ambassador to Washington in the 1930s, opened his embassy’s parlors to African American jazz musicians, who gathered there to play freely in a socio-historical context which was deeply divided by racial segregation at the time. Inspired by this legacy, the ambassador’s sons, Ahmet and Nesuhi, went on to establish the United States’ first jazz and gospel label in 1947 – Atlantic Records – which was seminal in spreading the beauty of jazz music around the world.

Read more at International Jazz Day 2013 | United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

 

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Jazz Articles: Free All-Star Brubeck Tribute Concert Set for NYC – By Jeff Tamarkin — Jazz Articles

A multi-artist tribute concert, “A Celebration of the Life and Music of Dave Brubeck,” will take place May 11 at 4:00 p.m. at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Avenue in New York City. The unticketed event is free.

Artists scheduled to perform include Chick Corea, Paquito D’Rivera, Branford Marsalis, Randy Brecker, Jon Faddis, Roy Hargrove, Roberta Gambarini, Bill Charlap, Renee Rosnes, Rufus Reid, Bobby Militello, Hilary Kole and Darius, Chris, Matthew and Dan Brubeck. Other performers and speakers will be announced as soon as information becomes available.

Jon Faddis at CareFusion Newport Jazz Festival - Ben Johnson

Jon Faddis at CareFusion Newport Jazz Festival – Ben Johnson

Information on the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine can be found at St. John Divine or by calling 212-316-7540. Public inquiries regarding the Dave Brubeck celebration can be directed to contactus@absolutelylive.net and will be answered when further details become available.

via Jazz Articles: Free All-Star Brubeck Tribute Concert Set for NYC – By Jeff Tamarkin — Jazz Articles.

 

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Jazz Great Hugh Masekela, Fresh Because He’s Fascinated: NPR

Hugh Masekela

Hugh Masekela

“I was a good boy,” South African jazz legend Hugh Masekela assures NPR’s Michel Martin. But still, he says, “as a kid, I was whipped on a slow day at least three times.”

Still Grazing

Still Grazing

Eventually, Masekela told his chaplain, “If I can get a trumpet, Father, I won’t bother anybody.”

His wish came true.

Within a few years, Louis Armstrong, who’d heard of a talented kid in South Africa, sent the boy his own trumpet. Photographer Alf Kumalo captured Masekela’s joy at receiving that gift in an iconic photograph. But Masekela says he has always hated that image: “I lost a girlfriend through that picture,” he says. “You know, we were very cool at that time, so that was a very uncool picture.” She told him she couldn’t be seen with him.

“Barefootin’ with your pants rolled up — I mean, how country can you get?” he says.

Read more at Jazz Great Hugh Masekela, Fresh Because He’s Fascinated : NPR.

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Jazz Articles: CMA Announces Grants to Jazz Presenters – By Jeff Tamarkin — Jazz Articles

Chamber Music America (CMA) has announced the recipients of its 2013 Presenting Jazz program, a series of grants supporting concert presenters that engage U.S.-based jazz ensembles.

According to a press release, “A total of $116,875 will be distributed to 11 non-profit presenting organizations to assist with concert-associated costs. In addition, each grantee will receive $5,000 to support general operating expenses related to their jazz programming.” CMA describes itself as “the national network for ensemble musicians.”

Mary Halvorson

Mary Halvorson

The 2013 Presenting Jazz Grantees are: The Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, presenting the Claudia Quintet; Carnegie Hall, presenting the Vijay Iyer Trio; The Flushing Council for the Arts and Culture, presenting Jason Kao Hwang and Edge+4; the Jazz Bakery, presenting the Dafnis Prieto Sextet; Outpost Productions, presenting the Mary Halvorson Quintet; Outsound Presents, presenting Kyle Bruckmann’s Wrack; Roulette Intermedium, presenting the Joel Harrison Group; the Rubin Museum of Art, presenting the Samuel Torres Group; San Jose Jazz, featuring the Vijay Iyer Trio; Stanford Live, presenting William Parker’s Special Edition; and the Walker Art Center, presenting the Craig Taborn Trio.

For a more information, visit ChamberMusic.org.

via Jazz Articles: CMA Announces Grants to Jazz Presenters – By Jeff Tamarkin — Jazz Articles.

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Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett Set to Record Jazz Album in June | Music News | Rolling Stone

Tony Bennett. Kevin Mazur/Getty Images For Amy Winehouse Foundation

Tony Bennett. Kevin Mazur/Getty Images For Amy Winehouse Foundation

The hip injury that led to Lady Gaga’s canceled world tour last month will not prevent her from recording a jazz album with Tony Bennett as scheduled, Bennett told Rolling Stone in an interview Thursday in New York.

“We’re working on it from now until June, and then we’ll record in June. She’s phenomenal,” he said during a dinner at the Amy Winehouse Gala and Inspiration Awards, which recognized him with a Lifetime Achievement honor. “I get along great with her. She’s looking forward to it and so am I.”

Inspired by their lone collaboration, “The Lady Is a Tramp” for Bennett’s Duets II album, the pair plan to expand on their relationship when they enter a studio in Astoria, Queens. “Once you have an idea, then you go for it,” Bennett said. While they have not settled on a producer, Dae Bennett and Phil Ramone worked on the 2011 song.

via Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett Set to Record Jazz Album in June | Music News | Rolling Stone.

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Jazz Articles: Kennedy Center Announces 2013-2014 Jazz Season – By Jeff Tamarkin — Jazz Articles

Arturo Sandoval

Arturo Sandoval

The Kennedy Center has announced its 2013–2014 jazz season. The jazz program at the prestigious Washington, D.C., venue, now under the leadership of Artistic Advisor Jason Moran, will include more than 70 performances. Featured artists will include Geri Allen, Terence Blanchard, Terri Lyne Carrington, Ann Hampton Callaway, Ramsey Lewis, Kevin Mahagony, Oscar Peñas, John Pizzarelli, Dorado Schmitt, Esperanza Spalding and Cecil Taylor.

Among the themed shows announced by the Kennedy Center is a 75th anniversary celebration of Blue Note Records, a weeklong series of performances that includes Norah Jones, Moran and Cassandra Wilson. Trumpeter Arturo Sandoval will be the focus of a concert titled “50 Years: The Life, Passion, and Music of Arturo Sandoval,” with Chick Corea, Bill Cosby, Doc Severinsen, Andy Garcia and more. Soprano Kathleen Battle will perform “Something to Sing About,” a program of songs by Gershwin, Ellington and Joplin with pianist Cyrus Chestnut.

via Jazz Articles: Kennedy Center Announces 2013-2014 Jazz Season – By Jeff Tamarkin — Jazz Articles.

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