The Jazzcat

Joy of Jazz in South Africa Aug 23rd – 25th

by on Aug.19, 2012, under News has arranged for several members of the American Press to travel over to Johannesburg South Africa to cover the Joy of Jazz Festival!!!

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Thanks to South Africa Tourism and the organizers of the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz Festival we can virtually take you with us, as we explore the sounds and sites of Johannesburg. The line-up is spectacular, and we’re looking forward to reporting on some familar names and turning you on to the various rhythms from Africa.

The Standard Bank Joy of Jazz Festival will take place on eight stages in Newtown including the Dinaledi Stage, the Conga, Mbira, Bassline and The Market Theatre. Other venues include free concerts at Sophiatown, Shikisha and Nikki’s Oasis.

The line-up is an international delight with more than 15 countries represented. Over the years the event has attracted some of the world’s finest musical exponents and this year is no exception! Joy of Jazz have again booked a stellar line up of international and local musical giants, very much in keeping with the event’s premier status. Luminaries from Africa have not been ignored. These include Caiphus Semenya, one of South Africa’s most celebrated arts and culture ambassadors; Manu Dibango from Cameroon and Mory Kante from Guinea. Kante’s hit song “Yé ké yé ké,” was one of the first African singles to sell over one million copies on the European market.

Others performers in the impressive line-up include Afrika Mkhize, the 2012 Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz; another former Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz Gloria Bosman; saxophonist Bhudaza Mapefane from Lesotho; Erik Truffaz, the French jazz trumpeter who infuses elements of hip hop, rock ‘n’ roll and dance music into his compositions; jazz maestro Johnny Mekoa; Musa Manzini; violinist Samson Diamond; Botswana’s Shanti Lo who performs with the Swedish Ensemble.

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A powerhouse of female vocalists will be performing at Standard Bank Joy of Jazz including: Jane Monheit (US); Maysa (US) who started of her singing career as a back-up singer for Stevie Wonder before recording the hit song “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing” with British band Incognito; the multi-Grammy nominated Ledisi (US) fresh off a headlining tour with Eric Benet, Cécile Verny (Ivory Coast/France) whose voice has been one of the most important in European jazz for the past 20 years. Her love for the songs of her Ivory Coast homeland, gospel, chansons and American jazz standards, are all united in a distinctive way, and Sathima Bea Benjamin who will be performing with the Duke Ellington Orchestra.

On Thursday, August 23, opening night performances include:

Eddie Palmieri

2013 NEA Jazz Master Eddie Palmieri who has a musical career that spans over 50 years as a bandleader of salsa and Latin jazz orchestras. With a discography that includes 36 titles, Palmieri has been awarded nine Grammy Awards. Born in Spanish Harlem in 1936, Eddie began piano studies at an early age, as did his celebrated older brother, the late Salsa legend and pianist, Charlie Palmieri. For Latin New Yorkers of Eddie’s generation, music was a vehicle out of El Barrio.

Possessed by a desire to play the drums, Palmieri joined his uncle’s orchestra at age 13, where he played timbales. Says Palmieri, “By 15, it was good-bye timbales and back to the piano until this day. I’m a frustrated percussionist, so I take it out on the piano.” Eddie Palmieri embraces the future of his music by blazing a distinctive musical path to the delight of fans across the globe. A true powerhouse of brilliance known for his astute arranging skills and historic compositions, Palmieri has shown that time is infinite with respect to his repertoire as he continues to thrill audiences with his legendary style.

Sax Summit – USA, Holland, South Africa, England

Sax Summit features five of the world’s top female saxophonists playing the music of Kippie Moeketsi. They are American rising star Grace Kelly, Holland’s acclaimed Tineke Postma, British tenor Rosemary Quaye as well as Shannon Mowday (a former Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz) and Nthabiseng Mokoena.

Manu Katche

Drummer Manu Katche blossomed as a contemporary jazz drummer and band leader, emerging in the mid-2000s after having played with his share of popular musicians. He studied classical piano and at age 15 enrolled at the Conservatorie Nationale de Paris. He then became a session and concert drummer with a wide range of groups, but in the mid-’80s, Katche’s stock rose considerably, thanks to his involvement with the touring and recording projects of Peter Gabriel and Sting. A French debut CD It’s About Time was followed by a string of engagements as a backup musician. The impressive roster of artists he has played with include Joni Mitchell, Gloria Estefan, Johnny Hallyday, Michael McDonald, Simple Minds, Afro Celt Sound System, Jeff Beck, Al DiMeola, Tears for Fears, Dire Straits, Jan Garbarek, Loreena McKennitt, Youssou N’Dour, Robbie Robertson, Joe Satriani, Tori Amos, Richard Wright, Julia Fordham, the Bee Gees, Joan Armatrading, Tracy Chapman, Bob James and Hilary James, Black Eyed Peas, Kyle Eastwood and David Lanz. From 2003 to 2007, Katche was one of the judges for Nouvelle Star, the French version of American Idol.

Earl Klugh

Guitarist Earl Klugh played on a Yusef Lateef album when he was 15 and gained recognition in 1971 for his contributions to George Benson’s White Rabbit record. He played regularly with Benson in 1973, was a member of Return to Forever briefly in 1974, and then in the mid ’70s, began recording as a leader. After a couple well-received solo albums, Klugh found international fame with 1979’s One on One, a Grammy-winning collaboration with pianist Bob James. More solo albums followed before the sequel to One on One, Two of a Kind, appeared in 1982. Klugh made his biggest artistic impression in 1989 with the self-explanatory Solo Guitar. Klugh has recorded over 30 albums including 23 Top 10 charting records – five of them No. 1 on Billboard’s Jazz Album chart. He has received 12 Grammy nods, millions of record and CD sales and continues touring worldwide.

On Friday and Saturday nights (August 24 and 25th), the extraordinary line-up continues with such artists as:

Marcus Wyatt

South African trumpeter Marcus Wyatt is part of a new generation of South African musicians, moving forward, respectful of the past without being afraid of twisting boundaries. Marcus’ new album Language 12 is testament to this, with a seamless blend of tradition and progressive thinking, contemporary loop-based ideas and live performance. This young trumpet player has performed around the globe, and worked with an impressive array of musicians, from Manu Dibango, Abdullah Ibrahim and Miriam Makeba to Carlo Mombelli, and Courtney Pine.


Kurt Elling

This is Grammy® award winning vocalist Kurt Elling’s first foray to South Africa. Elling’s rich baritone spans four octaves and features both astonishing technical mastery and emotional depth. His command of rhythm, texture, phrasing, and dynamics is more like a virtuoso jazz instrumentalist than a vocalist.

His repertoire includes original compositions and modern interpretations of standards, all of which are springboards for inspired improvisation, scatting, spoken word, and poetry. Declared The New York Times, “Elling is the standout male vocalist of our time.” Said The Washington Post, “Since the mid-1990s, no singer in jazz has been as daring, dynamic or interesting as Kurt Elling. With his soaring vocal flights, his edgy lyrics and sense of being on a musical mission, he has come to embody the creative spirit in jazz.”

Thandiswa Mazwai

Thandiswa was born in 1976 (the year of the Soweto Uprising). She grew up almost entirely in Soweto, Johannesburg, amidst the heavy apartheid township violence of the 1980s. Both her parents were journalists and anti-apartheid political activists, and she recollects that her home was filled with books, articles and thick with political discussions. It was this environment that nurtured her perspective as an artist. She went on to attend Wits University. As the vocalist with Bongo Maffin, she became widely recognized as the voice of South Africa’s conscious youth, their compositions consistently combining dance floor favourites with thought-provoking lyrics. They were invited to perform all over the world, and shared the stage with Stevie Wonder, the Marley clan, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Chaka Khan, Sean Paul, Steel Pulse and Skunk Anansie, among others. After five albums with Bongo Maffin she ventured onto a solo career. Her music is often deeply political and her compositions include traditional Xhosa rhythms, Mbaqanga, reggae, kwaito and funk and jazz sounds. Thandiswa has collaborated with illustrious musicians including Hugh Masekela, Stimela, the late Busi Mhlongo, and BLK JKS. In July 2012 she sang with Paul Simon in Hyde Park, London, in his Graceland album’s 25th anniversary concert. She sang the female vocals on “Under African Skies,” which was originally sung by Linda Ronstadt on the Graceland album.

Monty Alexander

In a career spanning five decades, Jamaican born pianist Monty Alexander has built a reputation exploring the worlds of American jazz, popular song, and the music of his native Jamaica, finding in each a sincere spirit of musical expression. In the process, he has performed and recorded with artists from every corner of the musical universe: Frank Sinatra, Ray Brown, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Clark Terry, Quincy Jones, Ernest Ranglin, Barbara Hendricks, Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, among many others. His recording, Harlem-Kingston Express on Motema Music was nominated for a Grammy® in 2012 as well as the number 1 record on Jazz and World Music charts concurrently.

Jimmy Dludlu

Award-winning guitarist Jimmy Dludlu cut his teeth playing with various bands in Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland and South Africa. He attended the music school at the University of Cape Town, where he completed a three-year scholarship in the jazz programme. Dludlu played for saxophonist McCoy Mrubata’s outfit Brotherhood, which a year later went on to win the Music of Africa Competition. In 1991, together with some of his Mozambican compatriots based in South Africa, Dludlu formed the seminal Loading Zone. Dludlu’s style includes wide-ranging influences, combining both traditional and modern elements of jazz drawn from among others Wes Montgomery, George Benson and Pat Metheny, to South African legends Miriam Makeba, Letta Mbulu, Hugh Masekela, Themba Mokwena, and Allen Kwela. He is particularly drawn to the sounds of west and central Africa, as well as Latin America, but says jazz remains his first love. His numerous original compositions fall within the tradition of what has been loosely termed Afro-Jazz.

Bakithi Kumalo

South African botn bassist Bakithi Kumalo now makes his home in the United States. Bakithi’s fame grew, but his musical career was still a terrible struggle and he was seriously considering taking a job as a car mechanic at the time Paul Simon came calling in 1985. Simon was in South Africa to assemble a band for his Graceland album. A well-known Johannesburg producer suggested Bakithi for his unique ability. Simon was entranced by his sound and, after some preliminary sessions in South Africa, he flew Bakithi to New York City to complete the tracks. His contribution to the Grammy-winning Graceland album gave him major visibility in the American music industry. He found himself in much demand for recordings and tours with many great artists such as Chaka Khan, Paul Simon, Randy Brecker, Josh Groban, Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Eileen Ivers, Harry Belafonte, Gerald Albright, Jonathan Butler, Cyndi Lauper, Laurie Anderson, Jon Secada and Gloria Estefan. He is featured in the 2012 documenatry about the making of Graceland: “Under African Skies” and just finished a European tour with Paul Simon.

Wycliffe Gordon

Trombonist Wycliffe Gordon also plays didgeridoo, trumpet, tuba, piano and sings. Gordon comes from a strongly religious background (his father was a church organist) that influenced the early direction of his music. He became interested in jazz at the age of 13 inspired by an aunt’s music collection. His early work as a professional was with Wynton Marsalis, but in recent years he has expanded beyond swing and has experimented with new instruments. He received the Jazz Journalists Association Award for Trombonist of the Year for 8 years. He will be performing his tribute “Hello Pops: A Tribute to Louis Armstrong” at the Joy of Jazz Festival.

Lizz Wright

Lizz Wright started singing gospel music and playing piano in church as a child, and also became interested in jazz and blues. She attended Houston County High School, where she was heavily involved in choral singing, receiving the National Choral Award. She went on to Georgia State University in Atlanta to study singing. Since then she has studied at The New School in New York and in Vancouver. Wright joined the Atlanta-based vocal quartet In the Spirit in 2000, which soon achieved critical acclaim, and in 2002 she signed a recording contact with Verve Records. Most recently Most recently she was part of the Terri Lyne Carrington’s project “Sing The Truth” and her latest recording is Fellowship: an ecletic mix of Gospel as well as soulful intepretations and originals.

This is just a small sampling of the performances taking place at the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz Festival in Johannesburg. For the complete line-up, please visit the website.

LeRoy Downs “The Jazzcat”

Check back for pictures and updates!!

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