Last night (Friday) I headed to Cape Town’s best and only real jazz club, Straight No Chaser. The venue offers unbridled joy of listening to the great music and musicians in performance without the din and clatter of waiter service. Pure jazz all the way, how it should be served to the audience. This night it was the debut of The Lee Thomson Experience, led so ably by the very busy and highly underrated trumpeter, naturally yep you guessed it, Lee Thomson, trumpet, flugel horn and instrument not often seen on the stages of Cape Town, (the pocket trumpet). Band leader Thomson was joined on stage by vocalist Bonj Mpanza, pianist Nick Williams, incredible rhythm master drummer Kesivan Naidoo and incomparable bassist Romy Brauteseth whose task it was to re-imagine the repertoire of traditional and contemporary jazz standards from Miriam Makeba and Duke Ellington to Beyonce and beyond.
Thomson has yet, after all these years to release an album of his own. Here he has the right vehicle to do so, a great combination of musicians to make sure of an awesome debut album. Something I have been on at him for years, I do hope it will be much sooner than later.
I was looking forward to hearing vocalist Bonj Mpanza, whom I’d not heard before. When she alighted the stage after an introduction by Thomson she told us she was going to start off with Allan Mzamo Silinga’s beautiful and so well known tune Ntjilo Ntjilo. In doing so she was paying tribute to the late Miriam Makeba. Pianist Williams rose to the occasion with his intro to the song which was just truly sublime, then Mpanza’s voice rang out like the clarion bells of the close by St Georges Cathedral, big and powerful. I thought we were all in for a real treat; she then went on with Mackay Davashe’s Lakutshon’ilanga and followed that with Winston Mankunku Ngozi’s Give Peace a Chance. By this time I was not really enjoying her performance because of her continued use of a delayed echo foot peddle. It was annoying and terrible with words and voice colliding into one another; she was doing battle with herself creating an unpleasant cacophony, oh, why did she choose to spoil her magnificent instrument with the totally unneeded electronic gadgetry. There may be a time and place to use such things perhaps, but most of the time during the set it was not. The few times she did not use the infernal thing she really show what a classy voice she has. Other than that The Lee Thomson Quintet was on point and showed huge potential as a unit to really watch out for, the future is bright for The Lee Thomson Experience. It was a huge privilege to be a part of the listening audience. When next they perform make sure to not miss the event.