National Jazz Festival is Bruut!al

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National Arts Festival Logo
National Arts Festival, Grahamstown, South Africa

Day 3 of the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. The weather has been holding up, with hot days and cold dry nights. The jazz festival is now in full swing and the cold evenings are filled with the hottest jazz. A large number of international jazz musicians are in town conducting workshops as part of the youth jazz festival. In the evenings they are teaming up with the cream of South Africa’s crop and putting on some fantastic performances. The National Arts Festival slogan “11 Days of Amazing!” is certainly true of the jazz festival.

JazzE attended 3 performances at the Jazz Festival yesterday, 29 June 2013. In the early evening the jazz kicked off with the Swiss pianist Malcolm Braff accompanied by South Africans Shane Cooper and Kesivan Naidoo. The band got off to an immediate start with a non stop 26 minutes comprised of 2 Braff compositions Mantra & Rhetorical Dance. Malcolm Braff commented on stage, and also to JazzE after the show at how amazed he is at the skills of both Kesivan Naidoo and Shane Cooper who only had a week in which to prepare for this gig and to learn his music which he says himself has taken years to create. They then launched into two Braff arrangements of songs by Prince, kicking off with a tune called “Sexy Mother-Whoooooooo” as renamed with a laugh by Braff not wanting to cause any offence.

Our next stop was once again in the DSG Hall, so a quick exit of the venue to top up our glasses and grab a bite to eat before heading back into the hall where the stage has now been laid out for the Awesome Big Band led this year by Canadian Bruce Cassidy. This performance by the Awesome Big Band, a standard 17 piece jazz orchestra format featured a number of top international names, including special guests Justin Binek (vocals) and Steve Turre (trombone/shells). The show was a good mix of big band tunes, and interesting in terms of the instruments used with Bruce Cassidy introducing us to his bright green EVI (Electronic Valve Instrument) and Steve Turre demonstrating his skills on the Conch Shell.

Our plans for the evening included seeing The Collective Imagination – Under The Poetree but having missed the Dutch funk band Bruut! on the first evening of the festival, we changed our plans and hurried off to the Lowlander Jazz Cafe (a new venue for this year’s Jazz Festival) to catch Bruut!’s last gig in South Africa on this tour. The 4-piece band is comprised saxophone, Hammond organ, double bass & drums, all played with an incredibly fast pace, and an energy and enthusiasm that is contagious. They leave South Africa having performed 3 gigs, to three sold out rooms and having received 3 standing ovations. There is little doubt in my mind that they will be back for another visit to South Africa before too long.

JazzE’s recommendations for Day 4 (30 June 2013): 
11:00 Talking Jazz – A Call & Response (ThinkFest! Blue Lecture Theatre)
15:00 Chris McGregor: The Blue Notes & the Brotherhood of Breath (ThinkFest! Blue Lecture Theatre)
17:00 Vocal Celebration (DSG Hall)
19:00 Makeson Browne Trio (DSG Auditorium)
21:00 Rhythm Changing (DSG Auditorium)

Etienne Shardlow

Etienne Shardlow

Etienne is a proud lover of South African jazz, and host of the weekly JazzE Radio Show on Bakgat Radio. He works as an IT Service Management consultant and trainer.
Etienne Shardlow

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