The Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra’s (JPO) Symphonic Jazz Concert, in collaboration with the ZAR Jazz Orchestra, led by Marcus Wyatt, is set to take the city by storm at the Linder Auditorium on 21 September 2023, in celebration of Heritage Month.
The Symphonic Jazz Concert will feature South African trombone player and vocalist Siya Makuzeni, jazz musician Siyabonga Mthembu and Marcus Wyatt’s ZAR Jazz Orchestra, alongside the beloved JPO.
ZAR Jazz Orchestra, a gathering of some of South Africa’s finest young jazz musicians from all corners of the jazz scene, was founded by Wyatt in 2015. A trumpet player, composer, arranger and bandleader from Gqeberha in the Eastern Cape, Wyatt has been an influential and important figure in the South African musical landscape for more than two decades.
Makuzeni is South African trombone player and vocalist who walked away as the Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz in 2016 and has since worked with artists from around the globe. Leader of her own rock band, IppYFuzE, Makuzeni has toured the world and collaborated with renowned figures like William Kentridge, Dada Masilo and composer Phillip Miller. Dipping her toe into pop culture, the film I Am All Girls credits Makuzeni for her song contribution.
You might recognise Mthembu from his Johannesburg performance art band The Brother Moves On but he’s been a part of some notable performances too, sharing the stage with jazz giant Hugh Masekela and stars like Thandi Ntuli and Bokani Dyer, to name a few. He currently has an eight-track compilation of avant-garde/jazz improvised music with a number of South African artists, of which he is the curator.
The musicians will come together on 21 September 2023 for a not-to-be missed performance of the Jazz Song Book, previously performed as part of the 2022 BBC Proms at the iconic Royal Albert Hall, with the Grammy award winning Metropole Orkest.
A lot of the music on the evening’s programme is drawn from legendary musicians, and includes some of South Africa’s best-loved jazz songs. You’ll hear the Marabi and Mbaqanga influence in Dudu Pukwana’s Mra and Angel nemali, the more avant-garde approach to Louis Moholo’s take on one of our best-loved ballads Lakutshona ilanga and the pop/soul influence of Stimela (Hugh Masekela’s deeply tragic ode to the continuing problem of forced migrant labour in South Africa) and Jonas Gwangwa’s Diphororo. There are strains of Tyner and Trane in Bheki Mseleku’s breathtaking The Age of Inner Knowing and Winston Mankunku’s iconic Yakhal’ inkomo, while the sound of the Cape Town minstrels’ carnival music shines through Wyatt’s Anneke tassou and Zim Ngqwana’s Bantu (along with the profound influence of Xhosa choral music). Abdullah Ibrahim’s frenetic Bombella is juxtaposed with Miriam Makeba’s most famous of songs The Click Song (Qongqothwane).
The task of creating a line-up that gave an overview of South African jazz was no easy feat, not least because the country has 11 official languages and multiple cultures and peoples. However, the Symphonic Jazz Concert is a tour de force that is set to warm the hearts of South African audiences and perfect backdrop for Heritage Month.