Tonya Koenderman

IN a tribute to the great jazz classics, Tonya Koenderman (pictured) can be seen in her latest one-woman show, When Jazz was King, which runs at the Rhumbelow Theatre from Friday until 9 March.

The show takes audiences on a journey back to 1935 where people like Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone and Duke Ellington ruled the music scene.

During our one-on-one, Koenderman, who’s friendly and bubbly, explains her love for jazz.

“I’ve always been a jazz lover of the old standards of the 1930s and 1940s. So it’s actually about time that I finally put it together. So it’s a tribute to the 1930s and 1940s and the beginning of jazz and how it’s incorporated into popular and classical music.

“Jazz is originally from the black slaves and then it moved to whites and everyone embraced it. So this has been a love project for me. And the tricky thing is I didn’t want it to be a background show. I don’t have a jazz band so I had to turn it into something really entertaining and I chose songs that have meaning to me.”

Audiences can expect tunes like Feeling Good, Summertime, The Blues in the Night, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Get Happy, My Baby Just Cares for Me and more. The show also takes on a more sombre mood at times, with classics such as Strange Fruit, and Tomorrow is My Turn.

Koenderman says there will be a rundown of the history of jazz. “Its actually quite fascinating, how jazz venues were initially for whites only but the singers were predominantly blacks. They could sing but had to sneak out the back.”

As for the song selection, she says it centres on love songs.

“I’m an absolute lover for the heartbreaker songs that pull at your heart strings. And I’ll be doing a sad version of some of the tracks. But it will be a combination of unfamiliar and pretty familiar songs.”

Although the show is entitled When Jazz was King, Koenderman says it’s suitable for everyone, not only jazz lovers.

“Above all else, it’s entertaining. Jazz is so commercial now with the likes of Michael Bublé and so on. So the audience will know the numbers. Also, there will certainly not be any songs that go on for 10 minutes. I pick the songs and they’re short and sweet because I want to keep the audience’s attention. So, come along and sing all the songs and feel involved. I like to break down that theatre wall and aim for an absolute fun time.”


•  When Jazz was King runs at the Rhumbelow Theatre from Friday to March 9. Tickets are R120 and R100 for pensioners and tables of eight or more. Call Roland on 082 499 8636