If you thought the Cape Town International Jazz Festival was about listening to a saxophone and vocal scatting in a smoky room, you have been wrong for a long time.
This year’s final artist announcement cements the new trends of the festival: as its chief executive Rashid Lombard put it, space for “serious jazz” and space for R&B. The festival will take place on March 28 and 29.
Jazz purists may grumble or gnash their teeth but when he is questioned on the issue, festival chief operating officer Billy Domingo’s reply was that what is showcased is “jazz and jazz-related music”.
Here he skipped a beat: “And only Rashid knows what jazz is.”
Definitions aside, whatever it is the organisers are doing, they seem to be doing it right. At this week’s press conference Lombard crunched the numbers.
In 2010, tickets sold out three days before the start of the festival.
Last year they sold out six weeks before the beginning – despite the fact that 4 500 more tickets were on sale than three years previously, 37 000 as opposed to 33 500.
This year seems tighter still. With eight weeks to go before the festival opens, if you are looking for a weekend pass, you are already too late. Only a few hundred single-day passes are still unsold at R490 a day.
Lombard said organisers look to radio airplay and requests, at print coverage of music, YouTube, and at Facebook when compiling the festival programme. .
He said the serious jazz and R&B trends have always been there. The so-called “Cathedral of Music”, Rosies stage, (with a R30 levy on top of the ticket price) and the Moses Molelekwa stage will be reserved for more serious jazz. The remaining stages will host world music, blues, hip hop and R&B.
Acts that should bring in the crowds include Shakatak and Level 42. Get out your leg warmers and tie your hair in a side pony.
Both acts are on at the main Kippies stage.
Two years ago we had Lauryn Hill and her messy sound scenario and last year was Jill Scott, who brought her aggressive man-eating sounds a year later than promised. Clearly neo-soul is important to the festival and so this year’s soulstress is Erykah Badu. She seemed “mass appeal” enough to get a place at Kippies too.
Lalah Hathaway’s is a voice that cannot be ignored. She will be doing a Kippies set and is known for successful collaborations. She dared to cover Sade’s Cherish the Day with the Robert Glasper Experiment (who played last year’s Cape Town festival) and they got it right.
Top 40 radio lovers will find their piece of the festival too. It seems Jimmy Nevis and his R&B pop sounds can get a gig just about anywhere these days. In 2012 he was playing small but packed club gigs in the City Bowl. Last year he played the festival’s free concert. He did the Kirstenbosch sunset concert in January and is set to do Kfm’s KDay on March 29.
This year, he’s headlining a show at espAfrika’s new Summer Jazz Series in Paarl on February 16 and is playing the Basil Manenberg stage at the festival.
That stage will also see house music favourites Mi Casa play their second festival. Their second album, Su Casa, yielded the party favourite Jika, so expect a packed-out performance. Hopefully the Basil Manenberg Stage will provide them with more space than Bassline did last year.
Rap this year comes in the form of AKA and Da L.E.S.
AKA (real name Kiernan Forbes) is a Capetonian now living in Joburg. He raps in English and his ego-driven style has proved successful.
Da L.E.S was part of Jozi with Bongani Fassie, a group that combined traditional African folk sounds with English rap lyrics.
The Good Weekend asked a cross-section of musos and music fans for some guidance through the forest of sounds at this year’s festival:
Festival chief executive
As Lombard sees the festival in the categories of serious jazz and R&B, he chose Level 42, Lalah Hathaway and Erykah Badu for R&B and Philip Tabane and Randy Weston’s African Rhythms Trio under the jazz banner. Tabane is described as an “ancestral jazz-rock god” and has been active since the 1960s. He will be playing at the Bassline stage.
Weston is an 87-year-old pianist with a six-decade career. He will play the Moses Molelekwa stage.
Head of the jazz studies programme at the South African College of Music at UCT and a stalwart of big band music in Cape Town
He chose saxophonist Kenny Garrett, jazz pianist Bokani Dyer and American ensemble Snarky Puppy.
Campbell described Garrett as a jazz legend “who is sure to have great players with him”, Dyer as one of the country’s most skilled and original young jazz pianists and Snarky Puppy as a great jazz fusion group.
Garrett will play Moses Molelekwa, Dyer will play Rosies with jazz pianist Kyle Shepherd, and Snarky Puppy play Bassline.
Co-founder of jazz listening club The Mahogany Room, drummer in numerous bands and the 2009 Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz. He will be playing with the Shane Cooper Quintet and the Mike Rossi Project at the festival
Naidoo chose Kenny Garrett, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and American drummer Chris Dave whom he described as “the most dangerous drummer alive”. Akinmusire and Dave play Moses Molelekwa.
Heart 104.9FM announcer who was involved in the former North Sea Jazz Festival (now the Cape Town International Jazz Festival) and the founder of the Jazz on the Rocks festival in Tieties Bay
He chooses Abdullah Ibrahim, Carmen Lundy and Kirk Whalum.
“(Ibrahim’s) music resonates profoundly. My diverse heritage finds credence and solace in his musical stories. I just cannot get enough of him.
“Carmen Lundy is a highly credible vocalist with a brilliant rendition of These Are a Few of my Favourite Things. This version I have played thousands of times on Heart 104.9. In fact I will play it (tonight).
“Kirk Whalum – what can I say? He is what he is, one of the leading exponents of the sax in the world and the project he brings to Cape Town sounds compelling.”
Ibrahim plays Rosies with the Ekaya ensemble, Lundy plays Basil Manenberg and Kirk Whalum plays Kippies.
A busy vocalist in Cape Town who voice coaches youth, performs live and recorded two albums last year. She is the 2010 Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz
She chose Snarky Puppy, Erykah Badu and bassist Shane Cooper. Cooper will play Basil Manenberg.
The owner of The Crypt jazz restaurant in Wale Street, trumpeter, pianist and member of the Cape Dutch Connection.
Blaisse chose Level 42, Kenny Garrett and Lalah Hathaway
“Level 42 are extremely listenable. Kenny Garret is a fantastic alto-saxophonist who’s played with the likes of Miles Davis. Lalah Hathaway is a brilliant vocalist and piano player and she’s a real soul player which we don’t hear much of in the Cape.”
For The Good Weekend’s music critic: “Two non-negotiable musts for true South African jazz ears are Dr Philip Tabane and the Blue Note Tribute Orkestra. Guitarist, composer, and inventor of ‘malombo’ music, Tabane is both a national treasure (he earned the SA Music Awards ‘Lifetime Achievement’ honour) and one of the country’s first Afro-futurist artists. The Blue Note Orkestra is one of apartheid-era South Africa’s greatest jazz exports – and a reason so many British and European improvisers make a pilgrimage to South Africa. The all-star cast of current firebrands include Andile Yenana (piano), ex Capetonian Marcus Wyatt (trumpet), Siya Makuzeni (voice, trombone) and Mthunzi Mvubu (saxophone).
“Australian four-piece Hiatus Kaiyote have been labelled as ‘future soul’ but call themselves ‘multi-dimensional, polyrhythmic gangster sh*t’. Sure, they may cause the jazz purists to grumble, but their blending of everything from Dee-Lite to early soul and Indie wall-of-sound means they’re a must-see.” - Weekend Argus