By Edward Tsumele, CITYLIFE/ARTS Editor
Among the top performers this year is non other than Richard Bono, leading the line up during this year;s online jazz feast.
Every one needs it, especially during these uncertain, difficulty and definitely depressing times of Covid-19 and the devastation it is wreaking in society, making friends, acquaintances and even family membersill and unsure about their own lives.
We have been broken spiritually for just too long, losing families and witnessing others close to us fight for their lives against this visible and deadly enemy in our midst.
I mean we need some comic relief, and that much needed break we need right now comes in the form of beautiful art called jazz. We are definitely sure to enjoy its uplifting qualities. What is even more uplifting given the context of the time is that we will be able to watch this performance virtually, from the safety and comfort of our homes.
Hopefully the Standard Bank Jazz Festival, which is wholly accessed online this year due to Covid-19, will make our lives feel much better, perhaps even heal our broken spirits because of the difficulties we are facing because of the danger lingering in the air.
The organisers of Standard Bank Jazz festival, part of the National Arts festival released the line up of musicians this year. And guess what, it should be what all lovers of this beautiful art called jazz have been waiting for right now, as these are not ordinary names in this genre and more.
To lead this pack of great musicians, both from South African and abroad during this year’s jazz feast is none other than Richard Bono and country jazz man . Now Bono does not need any introdction to discerning music lovers who might over the years enjoyed d his gift of musical sounds and performances over the years. The GRAMMY award-winning singer-songwriter, bassist, and producer Richard Bona. genre-bending jazzman has played with stars as varied as George Benson, Chaka Khan, Branford Marsalis and Bobby McFerrin. The Cameroonian-born Bona will perform as part of the festival’s uniquely curated online offering this year, along side, among others, 8 times Grammy nominated Gerald Albright. Yiou can expect fire works there without the rsik of disappointment.
These two will be joined on the virtual stage by the local talent that for years has dominated South African contemporary jazz and adult contemporary music genres, Judith Sephuma, Bokan Dyer, Marcus Wyatt, Nduduzo Makhathini, Lira and Sisonke Xonti, among others..
One of the most singular voices on trumpet, Feya Fakuwill share the stage with four masterful Swiss musicians, including bassist Fabian Gisler who returns to South African stages having (last) performed at the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz in 2016. This performance will bring together the best of the straight-ahead jazz in a rare conversation between leading voices from the Caribbean, Northern Europe, and the African continent.
In keeping with the festival’s tradition of making rare collaborative projects possible, trumpeter and composer, Marcus Wyatt will perform a collaborative duet with bassist Romy Brauteseth. They will revisit and improvise through known and new compositions in this unique setting.
In a flagship performance, the reigning Standard Bank YoungArtistfor jazz, saxophonist and composer, SisonkeXontiwill lead a quartet with pianist Nduduzo Makhathini (piano), Dalisu Ndlazi on bass, and AyandaSikade on drums. The former SBYA Bokani Dyerwill present his new musical project,Kelenosi. It features Clement Carr on keyboard, Tendai ‘Shoxx’ Shoko on bass, and drummer Leagan Breda.
One of the most exciting experimental projects in Cape Town currently, Jitsvinger Trio (Restorians) breaks boundaries of genre, language, and geography by bringing together jazz, Afri-kaaps rap styles and pop sounds. It is led by rapper, Jitsvingeron guitar, and voice, with Azaria Zulu (vocal), Harold Galeta (DJ), Marlon Swai (vocal), Chadley Beukes on bass, Chante Phillips on drums.
The SN Project is a collaborative convergence of a leading league of contemporary and youthful jazz masters in Mzansi. It features pianist and vocalist,Siphephelo Ndlovu, Muhammad Dawjeeon saxophone, Lwanda Gogwana on trumpet,Romy Brauteseth on bass, Sphelelo Mazibukoon drums, Mihi Matshinganaon vocals
The brilliant song stylist and trumpeter, Mandisi Dyantyis will lead a star-studded outfit that brings together master reedman, Buddy Wells alongside drummer, Kevin Gibson, Blake Hellaby on piano and Steven de Souza on bass.
The incredibly gifted vocalist, Dumza Maswanawho has been gaining admiration of jazz lovers and beyond thanks to his collaboration with outfits like Black Motion. Maswana will light up the virtual stage in Makhanda alongside trumpeterSakhile Simani, Bongani Tulwana on flute and guitar, Mthokozisi Mabuza on piano, Grant Allison on bass and drummer Sakhi Nompozolo.
Music lovers can also look forward to a rare cross genre experience that will see formerSBYA, Sibongile Mngomain an Opera Meets Jazz performance alongside the Masicule Choirat the Guy Butler Theatre.
Judith Sephuma In Concert, dubbed the Queen of Afro-Jazz, will present a set for both casual and serious music lovers. Sephuma brings her unique blend of jazz and success in the gospel world to the festival’s tested stages.
The much-loved singer-songwriter, Lira’s “Good Vibrations” promises to be a musical elixir against the bad vibes borne of the Covid-19 pandemic. She will set audiences on a musical path to feeling good with new and loved sing-alongs.
Few performances will showcase the image of dreams coming true better than Justin Lee Schultz. The 14-year-old Mzansi born piano prodigy now lives in the US. He performs with his talented sister and drummer Jamie-Leigh, and father Julius Schultz on bass, with special guest saxophonist Gerald Albright, one of the world’s premier exponents of Smooth Jazz, joining him for this amazing collaboration.
The Standard Bank Jazz Festival Makhanda is defined by an exciting programme of world- class jazz musicians performed in a rare and accessible context alongside the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Festival (SBNYJF).
This unique developmental part of the festival brings an annual gathering of about 400 young musicians buoyed by dreams and a commitment to their talents. Customarily, the SBNYJF comprises a series of life-changing workshops and rigorous auditions. This year it was important to find a way (even during this time of social distancing) for these young musicians from across the country to pursue their dreams and for the first time for the SBNYJF, auditions were held online with participants submitting videos of themselves to a panel of judges. The best among these young musicians are selected into the yearly constituted band, the Standard Bank Youth Jazz Band (SBNYJB), which will this year beconducted by multi-award-winning, producer, pianist, and composer, Nduduzo Makhathini.
The Standard Bank National School’s Jazz Band (SBNSJB)will be conducted by one of Cape Town’s most sought-after session bassists, and highly regarded jazz educator, Shaun Johannes who is also an alumnus of the SBNYJF programme. The school’s jazz band has been reduced to a smaller version in keeping with Covid-19 safety protocols.
Along with these two flagship performances by the Youth and Schools Jazz Bands, the festival will showcase performances by youth bands from Sweden, Brazil, Spain, UK and elsewhere. Another treat presentation not to be missed is a collaborative performance with Berklee school of music.
“It is exactly during challenging times such as we find ourselves that we get to test the best parts of our heritage and tradition. Jazz music is an art form that teaches us that we can always improvise beyond a bad situation in the pursuit of our dreams. This year’s festival allows us to live up to this principle and keep presenting the best of our local musicians alongside their international counterparts for new and returning audiences,” says Standard Bank Jazz Festival Director, AlanWebster
“Our festival has always been a uniquely international offering. Over the years, we’ve brought world-class jazz musicians from across Europe, the Americas and from across the African continent to the small town of Makhanda for a unique jazz experience that is centred on development of young people and their dreams.
This year, we’ve once again found a way to respond to the limitations imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic by reaching out to a larger global audience through the power of digital,” says Standard Bank Head of Sponsorship and Events, Desiree Pooe.
Tickets to the online shows are available through www.nationalartsfestival.co.za