Pianist Ibrahim Khalil Shihab Picture Ian Landsberg/INLSA

There's jazz, and there's jazz. Over the years a lot of music has morphed and placed in the jazz category but purists believe real jazz should remain as close to its roots as possible.

Google the definition of jazz and you'll find hundreds of entries but according to Wikipedia, "Jazz is difficult to define because it encompasses a wide range of music spanning a period of over 100 years, from ragtime to the rock-infused fusion. Attempts have been made to define jazz from the perspective of other musical traditions, such as European music history or African music.

"Jazz involves a spontaneity and vitality of musical production in which improvisation plays a role and contains a sonority and manner of phrasing which mirror the individuality of the performing jazz musician."

Whatever your opinion, if you're heading to the 20th celebration of Cape Town International Jazz Festival this weekend, here are some of the must-listen to performances for serious jazz lovers:


1. The Mike Rossi Project featuring John Fedchock, Friday 9.15pm at Rosie's

Rossi is a professor of jazz and woodwinds at the SA College of Muysic at UCT. His impressive musical career is not only steeped in performance where he appears regularly at jazz clubs and festivals but is deeply embedded in spreading his knowledge by educating others. 

He's written books on improvisation, is constantly evolving as he composes and releases albums and has also served as the president of the South African Association for Jazz Education. His CTIJF show promises some great sounds as he teams up with American trombonist John Fedchuck.  

2. African Time Meeting Legends over Time, Friday 11pm at Rosie's

Five greats collaborate to present a celebration of jazz - Herbie Tsoali (jazz bassist), Sydney Mnisi (tenor saxophone), Feya Faku (flugelhorn), Andile Yenana  (piano) and Ayanda Sikade (drums).

Tsoali, who was born and bred in Nyanga, steps into the limelight as he brings together this formidable group to honour past luminaries and celebrate the roots of Africa and tell the modern-day story of South Africa.

3. Don Vino, Sunday morning 1am at Basil "Manenberg" Coetzee Lounge

A true son of Cape Town, born and bred in Elsies River, the award-winning saxophonist (and philanthropist) attributes part of his rise to musical stardom to the influence of religion and church.

Regarded as an exceptional musician, Vino's repertoire of jazz and R&B along with other styles of music have taken him all over the world. Part of his draw is his amazing stage presence which you'll be treated to in the wee hours.


4. Don Laka, Saturday 6pm at Kippies

Don is another legend who, born in 1958 in Pretoria, suffered first -hand the horrors of apartheid. Refused entry to university he taught himself to play classical guitar and  recorded his own record label. He has written many musical  arrangements for top artists from Ray Phiri to the late and great Brenda Fassie. But it is his influence on the jazz scene and his remarkable ability to fuse genres that is his major influence in the world of music. He has helped pioneer kwaito music and developed kwaai music - a fusion of kwela, marabi, soul, jazz and classical music. His concert promises to be a total auditory treat.


5. Ibrahim Khalil Shihab, Saturday 9pm at Rosie's

Born Chris Schilder this is a jazz icon to be reckoned with. He started his amazing musical career at age 14, playing at the Normandy nightclub in Rondebosch, Cape Town. In the 1970s, he started the group Pacific Express, rooted in the Cape Flats, which had a cult following defying apartheid laws but also suffered aggression and antipathy for breaking the harsh laws of the day.  

Last year he released Essence of Spring celebrating a 49-year career and, at the fest, he takes it further, with what's bound to be an incredible experience of one of the Mother City's top musicians backed by a talented band and vocals.