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Modern musical moments a Grahamstown Jazz highlight

Published on 10 June 2013

The Standard Bank Jazz Festival, Grahamstown 2013 incorporates a variety of disciplines into its programme. Modern Jazz is one of the genres that will be highlighted at the festival this year, though it is just one part of the formidable line-up which includes Mainstream, Blues / Funk / World Music, Afro-Jazz, Youth and the Standard Bank Jazz and Blues Cafe.


Bassist Shane Cooper, Standard 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. He returns to Grahamstown with two of the festival organisers – Marc Stucki (sax) and Andreas Tschopp (trombon e) – and the concert explores the diverse sounds created by different mixes of instruments with all members of the collaboration (Kyle Shepherd on piano and Kesivan Naidoo on drums join the mix) providing original compositions.

Shane Cooper’s second Young Artist performance features his own original music in a group of some of his favourite South African musicians. The music goes from left-field groove to post-bop to South African rhythms to introspective ballads, featuring two past winners of the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Jazz – Kesivan Naidoo and Bokani Dyer; with Justin Bellairs (sax) and Reza Khota (guitar).

Jazz musicians are normally inspired by something completely fresh and different – a new form of sound; unusual chord progressions or rhythms; or collaborating with musicians they have never met before. However, sometimes it is equally invigorating to revisit old musical relationships and explore afresh what made you the musician you are. An exciting group of musicians come together from Australia – Mark Ginsburg (sax); Canada – Bruce Cassidy (trumpet); and South Africa –Andrew Lilley (piano), Dave Ledbetter (guitar), Shaun Johannes (bass), Ronan Skillen (percussion),Kevin Gibson (drums). Though the musicians in this band now live on three different continents, their links to each other stretch over the past three decades, and in this collaboration they explore each other’s music, sharing diverse musical journeys with a desire to merge their collective influences and through this process to create a fresh sound: Global Express

Malcolm Braff is a great bear of a man with such heightened musical sensitivity that he brings hardened jazz musicians to tears. Well, that’s certainly what happened last time we had the chance to showcase his playing in Grahamstown in 2010! The piano keyboard sings and hums as he hunches over it and the rhythms – complex and multifaceted – wash over the audience in lapping waves, stirring to frenzies and receding to lullabies. His South African rhythm section, comprising Shane Cooper (bass) and Kesivan Naidoo (drums), will no doubt do the beauty of his music justice.

French pianist Laurent Coq is a performer, composer and musical activist who has notched up a formidable list of recordings and collaborations in Europe, Japan, Vietnam and the US. He studied with Mulgrew Miller and performed with Frank Wess, Rick Margitza and Otis Brown III, among many others. He has composed film scores for full orchestra; improvised collaborations with a dancer; and performed at leading festivals in Europe, New York and Tokyo. He was voted Best Jazz Musician in 2006 by the French Jazz Academy and joins the Festival in Grahamstown as part of an extensive African tour. He performs withfellow Frenchmen Ralph Lavital (guitar) and Nicolas Pélage (vocals).

 Laurent Coq

Mark Fransman – appearing here in the guise of Makeson Browne – is a versatile, talented young Cape Town musician and past winner of the Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz Award. His music flows from R&B, funk and social commentary to serious jazz and he has become as accomplished on saxophone as he was renowned on piano and voice. He has won SAMAs for his production, is an accomplished composer and arranger and plays in productions as diverse as his recent two-month stint in London with the award-winning play “Mies Julie”. He collaborates here with Dutch pianist Jeroen van Vliet and the solid rhythm section of Shane Cooper (bass) and Jonno Sweetman (drums).

The Mike Rossi Project is the result of the mixed musical life of an artist and educator who has travelled extensively and has performed with as diverse an array of musicians as the Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra, Clark Terry, Tony Bennett, Aretha Franklin and Winston “Mankunku” Ngozi. Born in the US to Ita lian emigrants and now Professor of Jazz at UCT, woodwind specialist Mike Rossi’s music reflects American, South African and Italian influences and experiences. The music was specifically orchestrated for trumpet, trombone and multiple saxophones with a stellar rhythm section, and ranges in style from South African township jazz to hard bop, modal, latin and contemporary jazz. He brings together Lee Thomson (trumpet), William Haubrich (trombone), Jason Reolon(piano), Wesley Rustin (bass), and Kesivan Naidoo (drums).


We pit a fascinating young European innovator with a killer South African rhythm section in Young Guns. Swiss trombonist Andreas Tschopp has played with Bob Brookmeyer’s New Art Orchestra and the European Jazz Orchestra, and in major festivals from Montreux and Berlin to Shanghai and Bagkok. They join three of the most exciting young players in South Africa: Nduduzo Makhathini (piano),Shaun Johannes (bass) and Ayanda Sikade (drums).


Drummers Kesivan Naidoo and Håkon Mjåset Johansen played together at a late-night jam session years ago, and that powerful energy is harnessed as the source for a collaboration that is Rhythm Changing, butbeggars 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 addition of the lyrical sax of Norwegian Atle Ny mo, audiences can expect a mind-blowingly beautiful performance.


Mombelli and van Vliet are two unusual composers on a sound design journey, and their collaboration is bound to be nothing short of interesting. The American Bass Player magazine writes of Carlo Mombelli: ‘his latest release shows off a musician in full, with his command of the instrument so secure his virtuosic moments fade into unexplainably delightful sonic pastiche…  Avant-garde bass-focused jazz composition has rarely sounded so gorgeous.’ Mombelli will be collaborating with Jeroen van Vliet, described in the Dutch press as ‘a master of nuance…whose playing is enchanting, emotional and full of fantasy… With his silent moments, his way to use suspense, the alternation of melody and rhythm and the logic of his harmony, Van Vliet is an important figure within the Dutch improvising music scene.’  They are joined by Rus Nerwich and Kesivan Naidoo.


In Rus Nerwich & the Wondering Who, Nerwich is joined by Andrew Lilley (piano),Nick Williams (bass),Ronan Skillen (percussion), Kevin Gibson (drums). It sounds like wind and water, noise and calm; confusion in the midst of a groove that eventually makes sense only because it’s repeated – the confusion, that is. It sounds like a torn packet of grain painting the streets and an elephant grinding it; horns warn of change and it grooves and it grooves and it grooves. Cape saxophonist Rus Nerwich is always wondering, considering, exploring and searching for ways in which to add a new face to the prism, and by introducing eclectic sounds and exotic colours, instruments that have “predictable” tones suddenly find new life.

 rus nerwich 2

The Svein Olav Herstad Trio is tight-knit piano trio that met 20 years ago as students at the Trondheim Music Conservatory and has played together since then with each instrument regarded as an equal musical partner. Svein Olav Herstad (piano), Magne Thormosæter (bass), Håkon Mjåset Johansen (drums) produce a classic sound with modern ideas. All three musicians are highly-accomplished and busy in many other projects, but the intention of this trio is to have fun when they get a chance to play, influenced by a common fascination with American jazz history.

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.