Veteran jazz saxophonist Barney Rachabane passes on

The jazzman died of natural causes on Saturday

By Edward Tsumele

Jazz colossus Barney Rachabane has died and with his demise an important member of the South African jazz families has died too. But fortunately his legacy will continue to live on through other musicians he has mentored, notably his jazz playing son Oscar and his daughter Octavia, both of whom have demonstrated some commitment and flair in the fine art of jazz. For the Rachabanes jazz was indeed a family affair.

 I am still learning because he has been in this forever. He has been through it all.He has seen the ups Information surrounding the circumstances of Rachabane’s death on Saturday, was still sketchy yesterday.

But what is clear though is the fact that Barney Rachabane has left an intelligible mark and important traceable footprints on the South African jazz scene. Those privileged to have attended some of his concerts in Johannesburg, and in some of them , he featured his children, such at Niki’s Oasis in Newtown (where I regularly watched him perform during the pre-Covid-19 years), .will miss Bra Barney’s shows  that always exuded a good vibe. In his presentation, he was always professional, respecting his audience and fully committed to the craft of jazz performance, and like many other jazz artists, always well presented from the dress sense down to the actual musical performance  delivery. That is the Bra Barney many had come to respect whenever he was on stage.

Therefore Rachabane in his lifetime impressed both ordinary jazz lovers and scholars, particularly when it came to jazz improvisation, and as a result he attracted researchers into his repertoire. One such academic researcher is Kevin Davison, who after attending a music concert in Sun City, North West in 2012 had this to write as an abstract for an academic paper he was writing on jazz improvisation..

“This research views the construction of melodic improvised playing as an extended chain of causal events, which in themselves are interdependent on one another. The author is of the opinion that all improvising soloists strive to speak with their own voice. This research therefore looks at two remarkable such voices. The intent of this writing was never to find one practitioner’s method superior to the other. As listeners we would like to experience a diversity of melodic and harmonic concepts when absorbing the uniqueness of improvised solo playing. The analysis of playing is based on a set of jazz performances that took place at Sun City. There were many soloists that night; however the author identifies Bob Mintzer and Barney Rachabane’s playing, both of who were at the top of their game, as pivotal. This provided a unique opportunity for the author to look for possible sources that could be fuelling the prime ideas in their music. These prime ideas usually occur in a constant state of flux in any given solo. However, if music reflects the many facets of the human soul, either in joy or in anguish, then personal experience and background could, in themselves, become generators of prime idea formations that may reflect the identity and predilections of the improvising soloist. These formations, when they do occur in an improvised passage, could have the ability to touch the listener in a deeper place than any predetermined melodic construct may do.”.

Davidson’s  paper was published  in South African Music Studies(Vol. 32) by the South African Society for Research in Music.

Meanwhile social media yesterday, November 14, 2021,  was abuzz with condolences pouring for the late Bra Barney from those that loved his brand of jazz.

“It is with great sadness that we confirm the passing of Mr. Barney Rachabane. He passed away last night  (Saturday, )November 13, 2021. Mr Rchabane’s untimely passing was due to natural causes. More details will be shared in due course,” the family said in a brief statement released on Sunday, November 14, 2021.

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