Cape Town International Jazz Festival: Packed with the Best

25 January 2010 — Cape Town International Jazz Festival

Cape Town International Jazz Festival organisers had to wait for more than three years to be able to find space in saxophonist Wayne Shorter’s busy schedule and get him to perform at Africa’s Grandest Gathering. According to espAfrika and festival director Rashid Lombard, as organisers they have always wanted the 77-year old saxophonist to appear in Cape Town. “For years, it’s been our wish to get Wayne Shorter to the festival. As a touring artist we could never get the time right. We are thrilled that this round this living jazz legend could make”.

At the centre of every innovation that occurred in jazz in the last 50-years, Shorter leads his stellar quartet made up of pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Brian Blade at the festival that takes place at Friday 25 and Saturday 26 March at Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC). The quartet, whose members are bandleaders of note has been together since September 2000. Shorter whose introspective saxophone tone is engulfing assembled the acoustic group as he took a turn towards music that predate his association with bands like the jazz-rock fusion outfit, Weather Report.

To join Shorter as headline acts is the 1970s band Earth, Wind and Fire (EWF) and US saxophonist Dave Koz. Rooted in soul, funk, gospel, blues and jazz, EWF emerged as the other wing of pop music of the 1970s, a wing based on Afro-American musical sensibilities. To produce its sound, EWF members used their skills as jazz musicians to produce brassy music that transcended categories. The results were everlasting hits such as “Shining Star”, “Mighty Mighty”, “Let’s Groove” and “Kalimba Story”. Although he comes from a different period, Koz’s approach is similar to that of EWF, production of well-crafted music that appeals to a wider audience.

A multifaceted artist, Koz not only plays saxophone masterfully, he runs a yearly Smooth Jazz Christmas Tour, owns a record company, promotes an annual Dave Koz & Friends Jazz Cruise and hosts a syndicated radio programme that is broadcast through smooth jazz stations across the US. It will not be for the first time that the saxophonist appears at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival. He appeared as a guest at the festival’s 10th anniversary in 2009 where he shared the stage with guitarist Jonathan Butler. A sign of how popular Koz’ music is on these shores, the first country outside of the US where his recording gained platinum status is South Africa. His 1999 The Dance sold over 100 000 units.

As in previous years, there will be at this year’s event an equal split between African artists and those from abroad. To lead Africa’s contingency is West African griot Youssou N’dour and reigning queen of Afro-soul, Simphiwe Dana. In musical career that goes back to 1975 when he became a professional musician, N’dour has grown to be a musical ambassador of the African continent. With his voice he champions the cause of the entire continent. In many ways Dana is taking the same path. Since the launch of her 2004 debut album, Dana’s contemplative voice has won her one award after the other. It has also won her a huge following locally and internationally. In 2005 which is the last time that the silky-voiced singer appeared at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, her show was rescheduled and moved to a bigger venue as more than the expected number of music lovers came to hear her. With a stunning new Afrocentric recording Kulture Noir, those wanting to hear her sing will definitely exceed the 2005 crowd.

Part of the African squad this year is South African-based Mozambican saxophonist and flautist Ivan Mazuze as well as up-and-coming Angolan vocalist Sandra Cordera. Cordera who fuses bossa nova with strong Afro-jazz styles, was selected last year by Radio France Internationale (RFI) as one of Africa’s best 10 musicians. Cordera is the second Angolan artist to perform at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival. She follows in the footsteps of singer Paulo Flores whose reception at last year’s festival is a testimony of how the audience at the festival is open musically.

Festival organisers are again sticking to programming that makes the two-day event not only memorable but a music show where attendees have choice that ranges from straight-ahead jazz sounds to more urban and contemporary styles. For those for more jagged chords and notes, they will have the opportunity to hear hot-blowing US trumpeter Christian Scott; Patricia Barber who is revered for her pianism and her contralto voice; and Cape Town-based guitarist, pianist, vocalist and gifted composer Dave Ledbetter. Known for his work with groups like the energetic Truly Fully Hey Shoo Wow Band and Boereqanga, the talented musician leads at this year’s musical extravaganza his own band, The Clearing. The band is presently putting final touches to its recording.
Programming at the festival continues to provide a stage for younger but serious musicians. On this year’s lineup is South African singer Lisa Bauer, Hong Kong-based Singaporean singer and producer Hanjin, and bassist/vocalist Esperanza Spalding. In addition to leading her band Spalding is a member of Joe Lovano’s new band, Us Five. Spalding, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and drummer Francisco Mela were the rhythm section that accompanied McCoy Tyner at the CareFusion New York Jazz Festival in June last year. Always determined to cross barriers, Spalding is a rising star. Her latest recording weaves chamber music and jazz improvisation. Her bass-playing transfixes audiences and her multilingual singing hypnotisises listeners.

The lineup will be incomplete if there are no artists and bands that create nostalgia and a sense of déjà vu. One artist that will definitely create such feeling is US flautist Hubert Laws. Laws is one of the musicians that secured a place in jazz for flute. In the 1970s, Laws was the No.1 flautist in Downbeat readers’ poll for 10-years in a row; a position he held for seven year in the critics’ poll. He achieved this without abandoning his love for classical music. Throughout his career, the 71-year old flautist has demonstrated his ability to straddle effortlessly the worlds of jazz and Western classical music. After a partial withdrawal from the music scene in the mid-1980s, Laws is back, starting where he left off.

Surely to bring down the house is the old South African band, The Flames. Steeped in Atlantic soul and Motown sound, before disbanding in 1970 The Flames was one of the country’s top pop groups. The band was the first non-white South African group to reach the Top 20 charts of the whites-only Springbok Radio. The Flames is also the first group in the world to record with the label that the famous Beach Boys owned. The band’s appearance in Cape Town will definitely be a reunion and connect the group with thousands of its fans.

To provide contemporary sounds will be “lieutenants of funk, corporals of beat and renegades of rhyme”, Gang of Instrumentals, South African group that fuses electro, disco, funk, pop and African rhythms; Gazelle, and Monique Bingham whose name is synonymous with the live band Abstract Truth.

The artists revealed at the first artists announcement who will appear at this year’s festival are: Earth, Wind and Fire (US), Christian Scott (US), Dave Ledbetter and the Clearing (SA), Dave Koz (US), Esperanza Spalding (US), Gang of Instrumentals (SA), Gazelle (SA), Hanjin (Singapore/Hong Kong), Hubert Laws (US), Ivan Mazuze (Mozambique/SA), Lisa Bauer (SA), Monique Bingham (US), Patricia Barber (US), Sandra Cordera (Angola), Simphiwe Dana (SA), The Flames – Official Reunion (SA) and Wayne Shorter Quartet with Brian Blade, Danilo Perez & John Patitucci (US) and Youssou N’dour (Senegal) .

As part of the Cape Town International Jazz Festival’s commitment to the sustainable development of the Music Arts industry, the festival proudly presents a series of Workshops that takes place at various venues throughout the CBD and greater Cape Town area over an 8 day period. This social investment component explores various elements of the jazz world and includes Arts Journalism, Music Workshops, Music Business, Master Classes as well as many other workshops. Another element of the CTIJF is the esteemed Duotone Photographic Exhibition that documents the emergence and growth of jazz globally. The Community Concert (free to all) will take place prior to the festival on the Wednesday at Green Market Square and is a showcase of some of the international and local acts scheduled to perform at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival.

Two exciting new additions to this year’s workshops is The Juilliard School, New York – Conversations 2011: A Trans-Continental Jazz Event and The Berklee College of Music (US) -Auditions, Interviews and Clinics.

The festival will take place at the CTICC, on Friday 25 and Saturday 26 March. For more information go to: http://www.capetownjazzfest.com ?
Ticket prices for the 2011 festival are: R365 for a single day pass and a two-day weekend pass is R499. As in previous years, there will be an extra fee of R25 per act for patrons wishing to attend concerts on the Rosies stage. Tickets are available at Computicket and Shoprite-Checkers stores.??The gold sponsors for the Cape Town International Jazz Festival 2011: Department of Arts and Culture, Ritek Investments. Other sponsors include Provincial Government of the Western Cape, The City of Cape Town, Hansa Pilsner, Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, Cape Town Partnership, SA Tourism, Polo, the Western Cape Education Department and the Pepper Club Luxury Hotel and Spa.

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