On 30 June 2013, Day 4 of the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, JazzE spent much of the morning delving into our South African jazz history. JazzE moved away from the Jazz Festival to the Main Festival’s Think!Fest for the morning to attend a panel discussion on Chris McGregor. Chris McGregor was founding member and piano player for the legendary South African jazz band The Blue Notes and leader of Brotherhood of Breath. The panel discussion revolved around the history that impacted so much of the lives of Chris McGregor and his fellow South African band members and the difficulties face by a band of mixed races in the height of Apartheid South Africa. The panel comprised musicians that played with Chris McGregor both here in South Africa as well as in Europe, Chris McGregor’s widow Maxine McGregor, Hazel Miller (Widow of Harry Miller, another legendary South African in exile in Europe), historians and ‘The People’s Photographer’ George Hallet who captured many of South Africa’s historical jazz moments on film. The discussion highlighted the importance of the joy in the music that The Blue Notes took to Europe, and how their music influenced British and European jazz, changing it in ways that could never have been predicted.
In the afternoon, JazzE attended the book launch of Maxine McGregor‘s book: Chris McGregor and the Brotherhood Of Breath. This is the 2nd edition of the book and the first time the book is being published in South Africa in a very limited run. This book written by Maxine McGregor tells many of the tales around the band’s experiences traveling the country collecting the required documentation and recommendations in order to acquire passports needed by the band members to attend the Antibes Jazz Festival in 1964. It was this festival that allowed them to travel to Europe, for many, never to return to their beloved South Africa.
This book now available to South African’s more so than ever before.
In the evening, JazzE returned to the Jazz Festival precinct to see Makeson Browne‘s Trio with featured guest Jeroen van Vliet on keys. An intimate performance that showcased Mark Fransman aka Makeson Browne’s abilities on the sax and Jeroen van Vliet (who will be joining Carlo Mombelli in Johannesburg later this month) on the keys with the backing of two remarkable musicians in the form of Jonno Sweetman on drums and Standard Bank Young Artist winner for Jazz 2013, Shane Cooper.
In the late evening JazzE returned to our jazz history watching a show called SA Standards which put together a number of South African jazz classics from Winston Mankunku Ngozi‘s Yakhal’Inkomo to Way Back Fifties by The Drive. This featured renowned South African musicians Brian Thusi on trumpet and vocals, Kyle Shepherd on piano and bow, Wesley Rustin on bass, Ayanda Sikade. Included in this line up was Mark Ginsberg from Australia who grew up in Cape Town in the 1970’s.
Overall the day was one spent scratching the surface of our South African jazz history, and day five will be spent looking to our future with performances by the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Band and the Standard Bank National School’s Big Band
Follow Etienne Shardlow on twitter: @EttySh or keep an eye on the festival’s #NAF2013 hashtag.