Sunny side up: a life in jazz
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Breakfast Included, Iridium Project, Magic Carpet Ride, The Restless Natives, The Mannenberg All Stars, Search Party and The Jason Reolon Trio. The last name is what they all have in common – pianist and composer Jason Reolon has been associated with all these bands over the years.
The one constant in his music career since 1999 has been Breakfast Included, which started off as a quartet with drummer Shaun Michau and the two guys who broke away to form Goldfish, Dominic Peters and David Poole.
Reolon and Michau still form the backbone of Breakfast Included, alongside bass player Wesley Rustin, saxophonist Buddy Wells and vocalist Nomfundo Xaluva, who alternates with Haydn Gardner.
They will launch their new EP, titled Welcome to Today, on Sunday at the Oude Libertas Theatre in Stellenbosch and will be joined by percussionist Tony Paco.
“We hope to prove with this album that we have what it takes,” said band leader Reolon.
He has played so many genres of music over the years because he was keen to broaden his experience, but bands require time and commitment so he’s now shifted his focus to concentrate more on Breakfast Included and The Jason Reolon Trio, which will play at this year’s Cape Town Jazz Festival for the first time.
Where Breakfast Included is commer- cially accessible, almost radio-friendly jazz, the Jason Reolon Trio follows a more studied and traditional approach.
“Musically, you have only a certain amount of musical substance you can share,” says Reolon, “so you have to learn to prioritise.
Breakfast Included played the festival when it was still known as the North Sea Jazz Festival and he played the piano for Vicky Sampson, but he’s not surprised that this is the first time the trio has been added to the line-up.
“You always want to be invited to the festival, it’s kind of like being chosen for the first team.
“But I never really had anything before and that’s the bottom line. You have to have original material, something of substance, and it really helps to have an album, because an album is your business card.
“Let’s face it, selling albums is not what it used to be. The whole idea of a physical album is going out of the window. In New York you don’t find any cd stores anymore.” (This he knows because he recently spent time in the Big Apple to master the Breakfast Included EP with US-based producers.)
Reolon started the trio back in 1999 with Wesley Rustin on bass and Heinreich Goosen on drums, but didn’t really put his heart and soul into the project until about 2005.
One concert at the Nassau Centre, Newlands, in 2007 was a particularly good experience, which led to their first album.
“We called it Off the Record, because we didn’t intentionally record that. It was such a beautiful concert. I remember walking off stage and saying to the guys: ‘I wish we could’ve recorded that because it was just effortless.’ “
Two days later, the co-ordinator of the concert told them he had done exactly that, so they had their gig mastered and then released it.
“For me, that’s what it takes – one nice album to hear yourself and go: ‘Hang on, this is something I want to take further.’ “
He composed material for what would become their second album, Outline, when The Restless Natives were at the height of their creativity.
“That band was another side of myself; it was a completely experimental band and we went through so many phases.”
Outline (2011) was part of an SAE institute recording project, where the students could learn about studio recording in a concert setting. While he preferred the idea of feeding off an audience, the attraction of a studio recording is the emphasis on getting it right the first time.
“if you have people in front of you, you can’t just stop and say: ‘Sorry guys, can we do that again.’ So in a way it was more of a natural environment to perform in.”
Several of the compositions are stories about spaces and places he has lived in.
“My approach was I’d moved away from The Restless Native thing and found myself in a reflective place. I’d say that album is a true representation of me as a South African living in Cape Town, coming from Joburg, having lived in the Karoo, lost my parents, that sort of vibe.”