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Big Names and Big Bands for Grahamstown Jazz Fest.

Published on 7 May 2013

The Standard Bank Jazz Festival, Grahamstown 2013 incorporates a variety of disciplines into their programme. The Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Festivaltakes place alongside a diverse programme that features Mainstream, Blues / Funk / World Music, Afro-Jazz, Modern Jazz and Youth.

 2013 Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz Shane Cooper pic by Adam McConnachie_034 (10)

Mainstream performances are headlined by special guest from the Juilliard School of Music in New York, renowned trombonist and shells specialist Steve Turre. He adds zest to the Awesome Big Band, and his solo show is supported by a strong line-up compromising Marcus Wyatt (Trumpet), Bokani Dyer (piano), Hein van de Geyn (bass) and Kevin Gibson (drums).


One of the sell-out trademarks of the Jazz Festival in Grahamstown is the Awesome Big Band – a unique selection of top international jazz musicians in a standard Big Band format. This year’s band is conducted by Canadian trumpeter Bruce Cassidy, renowned for his quirky, powerful arrangements. Other Mainstream performances include those by Dutch performers Paulien van Schaik (voice) andHein Van de Geyn (double bass) – masters of their instruments in a context so subtle the audience is spellbound; AJ Brown – a young singer and saxophonist from Britain; a Vocal Celebration byJustin Binek (Head of Vocal Jazz Studies at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia) and Paulien van Schaik and a Frank Sinatra Tribute.


African influence dominates the Blues / Funk / World Music category, with South African icon Vusi Mahlasela, commonly referred to as “The Voice” of South Africa in tribute to his passionately soaring performances.  The Soweto String Quartet – fondly known as Nelson Mandela’s favourite group – makes its first appearance on the Grahamstown Jazz stages, as do established blues artistsRobin Auldand Albert Frost and young sensations MiCasa. Saxophonist Rus Nerwich’s project is simple, fun and musically rich, incorporating elements of the different styles he enjoys in a contemporary musical context with the intent and style of Guru Jazzmat az, The Roots or Buckshot Lafonque with an African spin. He is backed by a solid band of experienced jazzers, sparked by the musical synergy between him and modern rap. Comprised of four young, hip Dutch players, Bruut! combines a mix of funk, blues, dance and contemporary jazz to create a uniquely-titled ‘super-jazz’.


With a significant career in South African jazz that has spanned over 40 years, it would be difficult to find a more accomplished and versatile jazz musician than trombonist Jonas Gwangwa, who headlines the Afro-Jazz portion of the programme. Gloria Bosman – a former Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner – is a household name in South Africa, acclaimed for her sonorous voice and authentic stage presence. As one of South Africa’s natural bebop exponents, Barney Rachabane has forged an impressive solo career after cementing his international reputation with Paul Simon’s Graceland project in the 1980s and leads a special performance featuring his daughter, Octavia, on vocals and grandson, Oscar, on tenor sax. Guitarist Menyatso Mathole’s performance credits are a history of South African jazz, and he presents this history on stage; while Umlazi trumpeter Brian Thusi leads a performance of South African jazz standards – a set of songs that have defined our musical identity.


Bassist Shane CooperStandard Bank Young Artist for Jazz 2013, is an eclectic young musician who has rapidly emerged in the jazz world as first-call bassist for serious jazz. For his first Young Artist performance he draws on collaborations that emerged out of the Jazz Werkstatt in Bern, Switzerland – a fascinating festival run by young Swiss musicians who bring together like-minded musicians from around the world. Cooper’s second Young Artist performance features his own original music in a group of some of his favourite South African musicians.


An interesting collaboration of musicians – Bruce Cassidy, Mark Ginsburg and David Ledbetter – whose relationships span 3 continents and 3 decades come together under the banner Global Express.Pianist Malcolm Braff exhibits such heightened musical sensitivity that he has been known to bring hardened jazz musicians to tears. French pianist Laurent Coq is a performer, composer and musical activist who has notched up a formidable list of recordings and collaborations and joins the Modern Jazz line-up in Grahamstown as part of an extensive African tour. Born in the US to Italian emigrants and now Professor of Jazz at UCT, woodwind specialist Mike Rossi’s music reflects American, South African and Italian influences and experiences. Swiss trombonist Andreas Tschopp joins three of the most exciting young players in South Africa in Young Guns.


Carlo Mombelli and Jeroen van Vliet are two unusual composers on a sound design journey; while Cape saxophonist Rus Nerwich introduces eclectic sounds and exotic colours, finding new life for instruments that have ‘predictable’ tones; and the tight-knit Svein Olav Herstad Piano Trio produces a classic sound with modern ideas.


Drummers Kesivan Naidoo and Håkon Mjåset Johansen played together at a late-night jam session years ago, and that powerful energy is the source for a collaboration that beggars description. Swiss pianist Malcolm Braff plays with a rhythmic complexity – influenced by a childhood in Brazil and Senegal – that adds further layers to those of the drummers and Carlo Mombelli, bassist and composer extraordinaire with collaborative credits as wide-ranging as Lee Konitz, Miriam Makeba and Simphiwe Dana, fits in beautifully. With the lyrical sax of Norwegian Atle Nymo on top, audiences can expect a mind-blowingly beautiful performance.


The Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Band presents a selection of the top young jazz musicians in the country between the ages of 19 and 25 years, this year under the musical direction of South African jazz legend, trumpeter Marcus Wyatt. The Standard Bank National Schools’ Big Band consists of the top young jazz musicians in the country up to the age of 18 years, performs material worked on over the five days of the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Festival, under the musical direction of Ian Darrington, Director of the Wigan International Jazz Festival. A celebration of school and university jazz choirs and vocal soloists from around the country will be directed by top professional vocalists Paulien van Schaik and Justin Binek, with a selection of school/youth ban ds completing the mix.


This year will also see the establishment of the Standard Bank Jazz & Blues Cafe at the Lowlander, St. Andrew’s College, which will end each night with a great jazz show and a late night jazz jam session or blues gig – a place where audiences can catch musicians letting off steam and butting musical heads late into the night, featuring the likes of Nduduzo Makhathini, saxophonist Dan Shout, Lee Thomson, Imbaula, and the Rick van Heerden Quartet.

The 39th edition of the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown will take place from 27 June to 7 July 2013.

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The Standard Bank Jazz Festival is presented with support funding from:

Institut Français, the French Institute of South Africa and the Alliance Française

Paul Bothner Music


Royal Netherlands Embassy

Royal Norwegian Embassy


Swedish Arts Council / Swedish Jazz Federation / Mary Lou Meese Youth Jazz Fund

Jamey Aebersold Jazz

The National Arts Festival is sponsored by Standard Bank, The National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, Eastern Cape Government, Department of Arts and Culture, National Arts Council, City Press and M Net.