Jazz wizard gets grand invitation

Xolisa Phillip

PORT Elizabeth-born artist Shane Cooper, 28, has added another sweet note to his growing list of accolades. The bassist will be gracing the stage at the 15th edition of the Cape Town International Jazz Festival this year.

“Playing at the jazz festival has always been on my wish list.

“There, you get access to a larger audience than you would normally play to at an ordinary gig.

“Hopefully the appearance at the event will translate into more people coming to my shows,” he said.

This will be Cooper’s maiden performance at Africa’s premier festival, which its organisers have billed as the continent’s “grandest gathering”. He will make a showing with the Shane Cooper Quintet, which was founded last year.

The modest 28-year-old is regarded as one of the leading lights of a new wave of contemporary jazz that is sweeping through South Africa.

He grew up in Walmer and attended Victoria Park High School until Grade 11, after which he chose to be home-schooled to focus on his craft.

During these formative years in his hometown, Cooper honed his skills around Port Elizabeth’s clubs two nights weekly.

He made the move to Cape Town in 2005 “to get a bigger audience” and is now based in the Mother City.

The “great trek” to the Cape has paid off as critics have noticed his talent and the honours have been flowing in.

Last year, Cooper was a Standard Bank Young Artist Award recipient. As part of the award package, the musician got to perform at the National Arts Festival.

“Getting the award was an honour as it has been bestowed on many great artists,” he said.

In 2011, Cooper made it onto the Mail & Guardian’s 200 young South Africans list.

“Making the list felt overwhelming,” Cooper said. “There were so many incredible people on it who are doing interesting things. I had a few friends who were also selected, which was great to see and experience.”

Cooper graduated from the SA College of Music at the University of Cape Town in 2008.

His family had always been enthusiastic about music and never dissuaded him from pursuing a career in the arts, he said.

Although the profession was challenging, it was also rewarding. “I am my own boss and set my own deadlines. I get to do what I want when I want to,” he said. His favourite part of being a musician is taking his art form to different audiences around the world, whose responses provide an endless well of inspiration.

Cooper has taken his sound to Europe, the US and the rest of Africa, which has given him the opportunity to collaborate with other artists.

He cites South African bass player and composer Carlo Mombelli as an inspiration. Internationally, however, he said the list of luminaries was too long.

Asked what kept him going as a musician, he said: “You have to be a scholar of jazz.”

Meanwhile, SA Music Award-winning pair Ological Studies have also been invited to perform at the festival.

One half of the group – Phumlani Mtiti, 26 – has strong links to the Friendly City.

Mtiti is a Victoria Park High matriculant and a Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University law student.

He said being selected to play at the jazz festival was an honour.

The festival takes place on March 28 and 29.

A final artist lineup announcement will be made on January 28.

  • For more on Cooper, visit: www.shanecoopermusic.com

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