PE jazz alive and in need of venues . . .

CONTRARY to how it might appear, jazz in the Bay is alive . . .

Port Elizabeth is or was home to many talented jazz musicians. The list of famous jazz exports includes reeds player Zim Ngqawana (sadly recently deceased), trumpeters Feya Faku and Marcus Wyatt and bassist Shane Cooper who is this year’s Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for jazz.

More recent expatriates who are currently carving their niche in the Cape Town scene, include saxophonist Phumlani Mtiti and bassist Romy Brauteseth.

What is it that makes a “jazz scene” and is there currently one in Port Elizabeth? At core, it is the dynamic interdependence that exists between a variety of emerging and established jazz performers, an educated and/or appreciative audience and, perhaps most importantly, a variety of venues wherein this symbiosis of artists and audience might evolve.

There is a diverse range of jazz performers in Port Elizabeth and there is an established audience with great potential for growth.

But are there sufficient venues?

Early in the year the Opera House hosted a concert that featured the Nelson Mandela Bay Youth Big Band in collaboration with top-notch jazz artists – saxophonist Khaya Mhlangu and vocalist Gloria Bosman.

In June, the Cape Town-based and internationally renowned vocalist Melanie Scholtz performed in the NMMU South Campus Auditorium in collaboration with the John Edwards Quartet (Yes, that’s me folks!).

In October, the more intimate Barn venue within the Opera House complex was utilised by the Belgium-based South African vocalist Tutu Poeane and her highly competent quartet and, in the same month, saxophonist Andrew Young appeared at the Boardwalk Amphitheatre. Still to come, and eagerly anticipated, on December 20 and 22 is guitarist Jonathan Butler who will be performing in the new Convention Centre at the Boardwalk.

Although Port Elizabeth clearly has the infrastructure to host jazz artists of significant stature, the city currently lacks a circuit of smaller venues within which its resident (and visiting) jazz artists might regularly perform. First prize would be a dedicated jazz club – like the Mahogany Room in Cape Town – but performers and audiences alike would, I think, be satisfied for now if several of the city’s numerous restaurants and/or bars were to host a regular weekly jazz session.

Restaurateurs might be surprised; although it would require some investment, it could pay off greater dividends than expected.

One of my objectives with this column is to keep jazz lovers informed as to where they might find jazz in its many guises round and about the city, so please contact me ( john.edwards@nmmu.ac.za) with news of gigs and/or album releases and other jazz-related matters.

Regular gigs are currently thin on the ground, however, you can catch the accomplished seven-piece township jazz band Take Note on Sunday nights (6pm to 10pm) at Captains (Dolphin’s Leap, Humewood).

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