Alumni of the country’s best jazz development programme return while legendary bassist Concord Nkabinde will conduct the National Youth Jazz Band
The Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Festival – part of the Standard Bank Jazz Festival which takes place in Grahamstown during the National Arts Festival from July 2 to 11 – has become one of the country’s most significant jazz development programmes.
Some of the country’s top performers have participated as students in this acclaimed event – now in its 23rd year – including, at different times, Kesivan Naidoo, Beatenberg’s Matthew Field, Tutu Puoane, Kyle Shepherd, Goldfish’s Dominic Peters and David Poole, who met at the festival, Bokani Dyer, Siya Makuzeni, James Bassingthwaighte, Shaun Johannes, Monique Hellenberg, Ivan Mazuze, Dan Shout, Ayanda Sikade, Mimi Ntenjwa, Chris Engel, Prince Bulo, Mandla Mlangeni, Lwanda Gogwana, Sisonke Xonti, Thandi Ntuli and Melissa van der Spuy.
The Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Festival, with its extensive and intensive programme, culminates in the selection of the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Band (SBNYJB) – this year under the musical direction of legendary South African bassist, Concord Nkabinde – and the Standard Bank National Schools Big Band (SBNSBB), with experienced jazz saxophonist and big band leader at Rondebosch Boys High School Marc de Kock at the helm for 2015.
Says festival director Alan Webster, regarded as one of this country’s pioneers when it comes to jazz education projects: “The aim of the festival has always been to inspire young musicians and we do this by allowing them to hear a wonderful diversity of great jazz, as well as to see what their peers are doing. They also get to meet top musicians from around the globe and the African Diaspora. The selection of the national bands encourages and stimulates excellence, while the event is a must-attend networking opportunity for students, musicians and educators.”
This year’s Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Festival will once again bring together more than 300 students and 40 teachers from diverse backgrounds around the country, enabling them to experience and interact with the 120 top musicians who form part of the concurrent Standard Bank Jazz Festival.
“Standard Bank is not only passionate about the arts, but we are also invested in the development of young people in this country. The Standard Bank National Jazz Festival has produced some of the most amazing talent that South African music can offer and we are proud to be associated with such a progressive programme,” said Jenny Pheiffer, Head of Group Brand & Sponsorships at Standard Bank.
The programme includes innovative jazz performances, rehearsals, workshops, lectures and networking, culminating in the top jazz students in South Africa auditioning for places in the SBNSBB and SBNYJB, the latter of which is regarded as the most significant single youth jazz development initiative in the country.
On the two separate adjudication panels for these bands are teachers, lecturers and leading musicians. The SBNYJB performs at major festivals around South Africa and occasionally tours internationally.
All other students who attend the festival are divided into mixed-ability big bands who practise daily, allowing students who do not normally play in a quality ensemble the chance to do so.
Students are encouraged to attend all performances at the Standard Bank Jazz Festival (up to eight a day) and have free entry into each.
Bands performing this year at the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Festival include Thundercat, winners of the Swedish Jazz Federation Youth Competition last year and regarded as a group who represent the future of Swedish jazz, as well as the University of KZN Storytellers, who performed recently in the US and who convey through their music the complex cultural identity of living in Durban.
There’s also the Delft Big Band, which was launched in 2008 as an initiative to get youngsters off the gang-infested streets of the Cape Flats and who will be sharing the bill with one of the leading school bands in the country, the Rondebosch Big Band, as well as big bands from SACS (Cape Town) and East London’s Stirling High School.
Drummer Kesivan Naidoo, 2009 Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz, is just one of the few SBNYJB alumni who will be performing at the Standard Bank Jazz Festival and inspiring a new generation of players. Kesivan & the Lights played in Carnegie Hall in New York last year to great acclaim and a standing ovation. Naidoo reprises the show in Grahamstown with the addition of two Swedish guests, renowned tenor saxophonists Johan Hörlén and Karl-Martin Almqvist. The performance also features pianist and SBNYJB graduate Kyle Shepherd.
Pianist Bokani Dyer has had a meteoric rise in the jazz world since being selected for the SBNYJB and being named SBYA for Jazz in 2011. He will be performing with four gifted Swiss jazz musicians – Donat Fisch (sax), Matthias Spillmann (trumpet), Stephan Kurrman (bass) and Norbert Pfammatter (drums).
The award-winning Beatenberg features guitarist and vocalist Matthew Field, who will be performing with the band at the festival and previously appeared there as a young member of the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Band.
Tickets to the Standard Bank Jazz Festival, Grahamstown are available at www.nationalartsfestival.co.za. Festival programmes and booking kits are available at Exclusive Books branches or from select Standard Bank branches (see list below).