Jazz line-up a treat at National Arts Festival says director

A few early bird tickets are already on sale for big bands and big names in Makhanda

Nairobi Horns will play at the Standard Bank Jazz Festival in Makhanda in 2019
Nairobi Horns will play at the Standard Bank Jazz Festival in Makhanda in 2019

Jazz fans are in for a special treat at the 2019 Standard Bank Jazz Festival in Makhanda this winter, according to festival director Alan Webster.

The East London-based high school teacher has been hard at work organising the programme for the 32nd jazz festival in the City of Saints from June 27 to July 7.

“It is a place where artists meet and challenge audiences to expand their expectations of the art form. Audiences know they can trust the programming to be exciting and different and, even if some performers are not household names, always to be excellent,” he said.

“We kick off the festival with a big band on four successive nights – the massive Funk Big Band, led by world-renowned Swedish trombonist Nils Landgren; Marcus Wyatt’s ZAR Orchestra; and the Standard Bank National Schools’ Big Band.

“The first weekend also features a jazz party most nights, featuring Too Many Zooz – New York’s hippest new act – and our own wild things, Bombshelter Beast, so pack your onesie and join the party crowd!

“The first half of the festival traditionally also features a glimpse into our nation’s jazz future, with the 2019 Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz, Mandla Mlangeni, showcasing his musical plans in two performances Mandla Mlangeni Amandla Freedom Ensemble and Mandla Mlangeni: Tune Recreation Committee, as well as five other past winners of the award dotted through the programme, such as Shane Cooper with his latest project, Mabuta.”

Another highlight is the opportunity to hear from the nation’s younger talent who gather for the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Festival.

“It’s a festival that has provided musicians, teachers and students with networking opportunities and exposed them to the world in a fashion unique in SA, catalysing the growth of our jazz identity in the process,” Webster said.

The programme continues with musical greats from the past decade or two, featuring Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Freshlyground, Ernie Smith and Mafikizolo.

“Over the 11 days, we feature musicians from Kenya, Sweden, US, Switzerland, Brazil, Italy, Zimbabwe, Norway and, for the first time in Makhanda, from China.

“We trust that you will find the programme provocative, exciting and enjoyable, and it is threaded through with musicians who have made their initial forays into jazz in Makhanda, as Standard Bank Young Artists; or in the Standard Bank National Youth or Schools’ bands; or simply as youngsters having their minds blown away by what they have seen on the DSG stage.”