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From ‘Jazztown’ to Grahamstown

SA’s oldest jazz fest to celebrate legacies in city of saints

The countdown to the 2018 Standard Bank Jazz Festival kicks off with a line-up of leading musicians poised to make it an unforgettable 31st edition at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.

Taking place from June 28 to July 7, the programme will celebrate great jazz legacies with a league of world-class musicians re-imagining them with a youthful verve.

Jazztown – as the Standard Bank Jazz Festival is colloquially known – will see hundreds of musicians, students and fans descending on the DSG campus for 10 days of performances, with tickets going on sale from Monday.

“This year’s programme will celebrate key jazz milestones, give a nod to great musical traditions from across the African continent and showcase some of the best among what Europe and the US have to offer today,” jazz festival director Alan Webster said.

Classics from the great pool of hip-hop and soul music genius will be given a jazz treatment by the Rebirth of Cool led by pianist Thandi Ntuli – current Standard Bank Young Artist (SBYA) for Jazz – and DJ Kenzhero.
The legacy of historic band the Blue Notes will be revisited by the star-studded Blue Notes Tribute Orchestra led by trumpeter Marcus Wyatt.

Award-winning writer Percy Mabandu will lead an interdisciplinary performance to mark the 50th anniversary celebration of Yakhal’inkomo, the historic record released in 1968 by the late saxophonist Winston Mankunku Ngozi.

The project will bring together literature with the masterful jazz musicianship of Andile Yenana, Shane Cooper, Ayanda Sikade, Linda Sikhakhane and Sisonke Xonti.

The late, great John Coltrane devotee, US saxophonist Michael Brecker, will have his music re-imagined by a band led by Norwegian saxophonist Petter Wettre in a project titled Don’t Try This at Home – A Tribute to Michael Brecker.

Well-known US pianist Aaron Goldberg has for two decades toured the world with Joshua Redman and will be bringing his trio to Africa for the first time.

Saxophonist McCoy Mrubata and pianist Paul Hanmer will give a performance that reflects their influences on each other in celebration of 30 years of collaboration.

Swiss state arts funding organisation Pro Helvetia will mark its 20th year in South Africa by having 12 Swiss musicians performing in Grahamstown over the course of the festival, sometimes offering original music and other times collaborating with South African musicians.

The festival is also set to be a feast for jazz piano enthusiasts. Young Artist Ntuli will showcase music from her new genre-defying album, Exile, on June 29.

The inimitable Andile Yenana’s sextet, Umnqgonqgo Wabantu, will ascend the stage on July 1. The band will include the best SA and Swiss players like bassist Christoph King-Utzinger and drummer Michi Stulz on the rhythm section and a local hornline that includes Wyatt and Sikhakhane.

On June 29, Goldberg will lead his trio with Matt Penman (New Zealand) on bass and Leon Parker (US) on drums and percussions.

Afrika Mkhize will be on stage with Zenzi Makeba Lee and Amanda Tiffin on June 30 as they break new ground with their collaboration.

SBYA alumnus and visionary pianist Nduduzo Makhathini will also set the piano on fire when he plays music from his latest album, Ikhambi, on July 4.
In keeping with the festival’s focus on youth development and education, this year will mark 30 years of jazz education from Mike Campbell, founding head of the UCT Jazz School. He will present the UCT Big Band on June 28.

The SBJF is arguably the most visionary jazz festival in the world, thanks to its educational wing, the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Festival (SBNYJF), which for the past 26 years has been investing in the country’s young musicians.

The best among these will be on stage with the Standard Bank National Schools Big Band conducted by Dr Gordon Vernick, professor of music and coordinator of jazz studies at Georgia State University.

The Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Band is made up of musicians aged 19 to 25 from across the country conducted by pianist, vocalist, composer, arranger and educator Tiffin, head of jazz singing and acting head of jazz studies at the University of Cape Town.

Stay informed on the Standard Bank Jazz Festival by visiting standardbank.com
Bookings open at nationalartsfestival.co.za from Monday.