SA’s oldest jazz festival celebrates great legacies

The countdown to the 2018 Standard Bank Jazz Festival kicks off with a line-up of leading musicians poised to make it an unforgettable 31st edition at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. Taking place from 28 June until 7 July, the programme will celebrate great jazz legacies with a league of world-class musicians, reimagining them with youthful verve.

Standard Bank Jazz Festival
Thandi Ntuli

     ‘The Standard Bank Jazz Festival, Grahamstown is a special jazz festival, produced as a barometer of South African jazz, and a place where artists meet and challenge audiences to expand their expectations of the art form. In the midst of the National Arts Festival, audiences know that they can trust the programming to be exciting and different and, even if some performers are not household names, always to be excellent,’ says Director of the Standard Bank Jazz Festival, Alan Webster.
     ‘This year’s programme will celebrate key jazz milestones, give a nod to great musical traditions from across the African continent and showcase some of the best among what Europe and the United States has to offer today,’ he says.
     With a week-long programme that features some of the very best jazz musicians worldwide, Creative Feel has selected just a few of our most anticipated performances for this year.
     Classics from the great pool of hip-hop and soul music genius are given a jazz treatment in the ‘Rebirth of Cool’ led by pianist Thandi Ntuli – the current Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz – and DJ Kenzhero. The lofty legacy of the historic band, the Blue Notes is revisited with dexterous musical adoration by star-studded Blue Notes Tribute Orchestra led by trumpeter Marcus Wyatt. Award-winning writer Percy Mabandu will lead an interdisciplinary performance to mark the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Yakhal’inkomo, the historic record released in 1968 by the late saxophonist, Winston Mankunku Ngozi. The project will bring together literature with the masterful jazz musicianship of Andile Yenana, Shane Cooper, Ayanda Sikade and Linda Sikhakhane and Sisonke Xonti.

Standard Bank Jazz Festival
Nduduzo Makhathini

     The late, great John Coltrane devotee, American saxophonist Michael Brecker will have his music reimagined by a band led by Norwegian saxophonist Petter Wettre in a project titled ‘Don’t try this at home – A Tribute to Michael Brecker’. Well-known American pianist Aaron Goldberg (US), who has toured the world with Joshua Redman for two decades will bring his trio to Africa for the first time.
     In what is perhaps one of the longest running musical partnerships in our history, saxophonist McCoy Mrubata and pianist Paul Hanmer will give a performance that reflects their influences on each other in celebration of 30 years of collaboration.
     In addition to the ‘Rebirth of Cool’ project, Thandi Ntuli will showcase music from her album Exiled in her performance on 29 June. Since the release of her debut album, The Offering, Ntuli has been recognised as one of the pioneering voices of modern South African jazz and the release of her latest album, Exiled, this year once again solidified her standing as an artist of significant cultural and musical importance. True to her eclectic musical influences, her music goes beyond the confines of genre with references from Mali and Ethiopia, as well as an inclusion of spoken word, jazz and soul.
     For one unique night, an extraordinary collection of musical and artistic talent will be present on one stage in the form of ‘Afropoets’. The two-hour long performance will feature the fresh sounds of Urban Village – folk music layered with electric, funky acoustic melodies and a blend of traditional influences – collaborating with the legendary ‘King of the Zulu Guitar’, Madala Kunene.

Standard Bank Jazz Festival
Amanda Black

     Also on stage is The Brother Moves On, a South African performance art ensemble; and the new face of Afro-Folk, Bongeziwe Mabandla, who is effortlessly able to entwine Xhosa lyrics with traditional music and folk stylings to create something uniquely captivating. This is guaranteed to be one of those nights that will be spoken of for years to come – a chance to get a glimpse of the future of South African music in the hands of the pioneers, anchored by one of our country’s living legends.
     ‘Incorporated within the festival is the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Festival (SBNYJF) – a festival that has provided musicians, teachers and students with key networking opportunities and exposed them to the world in a fashion unique in South Africa and possibly the world, catalysing the growth of our national jazz identity in the process,’ says Webster.
     The provocative, exciting and enjoyable programme is, says Webster, ‘threaded through with musicians who have made their initial forays into jazz in Grahamstown, as Standard Bank Young Artists; or in the Standard Bank National Youth (SBNYJB) or Schools’ Bands (SBNSBB); or simply as youngsters having their minds blown by what they have seen on the DSG stage.’
     To read more about the unique voice of Vusi Mahlasela, proudly amaXhosa artist Amanda Black, award-winning pianist Nduduzo Makhathini, fiery Ghanaian pianist Victor Dey Jr, and versatile Nigerian saxophonist and dynamic vocalist Femi Koya, purchase our June 2018 issue so that you can continue supporting the arts and culture sector.

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