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International and home-grown superstars dazzle Mainstream Jazz at Fest

Published on 22 May 2014

The Standard Bank Jazz Festival 2014 incorporates a variety of disciplines into its programme. The ever-popular Mainstream is just one of the genres that will be highlighted at the festival this year. The others include Blues, Funk, World Music, Afro-Jazz, Modern Jazz and Youth. This year’s Mainstream line-up includes a glittering cluster of Jazz musicians representing the ‘standards’ of Jazz standards.

Multi Grammy-award-winning composer, conductor and performer Maria Schneider will be performing in South Africa for the first time at the National Arts Festival in 2014. Schneider has consistently won coveted awards from Down Beat and the Jazz Journals Association and she dominated the Classical Music categories at the 2014 Grammy Awards for her album “Winter Morning Walks,” taking home three Grammys. She is a compelling musical force whose music brims with depth, power and intrigue and who has influenced the direction of modern Jazz. She will be supported by a Jazz Orchestra that combines South African and Norwegian musicians in an exchange supported by East Norway Jazz Centre and Concerts SA.

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Maria Schneider.
Maria Schneider.

This year also heralds 30 years of sponsorship of the Young Artist Awards by stalwart arts patron and corporate citizen Standard Bank. Singstruments: A Symphony of Jazz brings together five of South Africa’s musical gems, all of whom have been Young Artist Award winners for Jazz, for a remarkable performance. Vocalists Sibongile Khumalo, Gloria Bosman, Tutu Puoane and Melanie Scholtz produce a beautiful bouquet of harmonies, sonorous melodies and jazz classics that indicate why they are regarded as being of our nation’s finest singers. Accompanying them on piano is Bokani Dyer.

Savour the distinctively rich sound of the Saxophone Quartet featuring Gary Keller – professor at Miami University’s Frost School of Music where he leads the Miami Saxophone Quartet – and local talent Justin Bellairs and Marc de Kock, as well as American-born professor of Woodwind Studies at UCT Mike Rossi. Also accompanying them are Rich Syracuse (bass – US) and Jeff Siegel (drums – US).

South African songbird Melanie Scholtz is set to captivate listeners with songs from her latest album, ‘Our Time’, which showcases a variety of styles from Motown to jazz to hip hop, creating a unique and refreshing South African sound. ‘Our Time’ is the multi-award-winning jazz artist’s fifth solo release and is produced by fellow Standard Bank Young Artist Bokani Dyer (piano) who will accompany her for the Festival. Also accompanying them are Justin Bellairs (sax), Lee Thomson (trumpet), Siya Charles (trombone), Shane Cooper (bass), Marlon Witbooi (drums) and Jitsvinger (MC/rap).

Bertil Strandberg is lead trombonist of the Stockholm Jazz Orchestra and past member of the Stuttgart Radio Big Band, Tommy Dorsey Orchestra and Artie Shaw Orchestra. He has one of the most beautiful sounds on trombone in the world and leads a group of five consummate musicians from around the world in exploring jazz standards, bop and original compositions. Also featuring Buddy Wells (sax), Harmen Fraanje (piano), Hein van de Geyn (bass) and Jeff Siegel (drums).

Greek saxophonist Dimos Dimitriadis is the founder of a unique Jazz and Improvisation Program at the Ionian University in Corfu, and as an Associate Professor of Saxophone and Head of Jazz, he occupies the first academic position given to a jazz musician in his country. He performs at the National Arts Festival with four renowned South African musicians: Sydney Mavundla (trumpet), Mageshen Naidoo (guitar), Shaun Johannes (bass) and Jonno Sweetman (drums).

Celebrated vocalist Tutu Puoane, Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz in 2004 and now based in Europe, returns with her musical and life partner Ewout Pierreux (piano) to woo audiences with the mesmerising clarity and depth of her voice and the intimate musical connection between two superb musicians.

Vocalist Babalwa Mentjies returns to her home town as a polished composer and a graduate of the UKZN School of Music. She presents a selection of loved jazz and South African standards, backed by the cream of the Eastern Cape’s jazz musicians, including Sisonke Xonti (sax), Sakhile Simani (trumpet), Nduduzo Makhathini (piano), Romy Brauteseth (bass) and Lloyd Martin (drums).

Another favourite daughter of Grahamstown, Nomfundo Xaluva – former head girl of Victoria Girls High School – returns to town having earned her Masters Degree in Jazz Vocal Studies from UCT, shared the stage with Sibongile Khumalo and Dianne Reeves, and claimed the “Best Urban Jazz Album” for her recently released debut album Kusile. She will be accompanied by Sakhile Simani (trumpet), Nduduzo Makhathini (piano), Romy Brauteseth (bass) and Lloyd Martin (drums).

 A new Jazz Festival venue – the Standard Bank Jazz & Blues Cafe at St. Aidan’s – will offer a great jazz show every night at 21.30 with a 23.30 jazz jam session where professional and student musicians drawn from across the Jazz genres will be jamming, improvising and letting loose late into the night.

The 40th edition of the National Arts Festival, Grahamstown will take place 3 – 13 July 2014. For more information check or To book, go to

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