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All that Jazz!

2008-04-03 17:06
Watch the videos
Sergio Mendes: Live on the Kippies stage
Oliver Mtukudzi: Live on the Kippies stage
Jimmy Dludlu: Live on the Kippies stage
Soul Brothers: Live on the Kippies stage
Manhattans: Live on the Kippies stage
Skwatta Kamp: Interview & Live

Check out the Jazz Fest Photo Galleries
Friday Night
Saturday Night

Okay, so neither Zola, nor Skwatta Kamp is 'jazz'. But then what is jazz? Is it the straight-ahead Blue Note bop of saxophonist Javon Jackson? Sure. What about the funky bossa nova lounge party starters of Sergio Mendes or sexed up R&B of senior citizens The Manhattans? Groovy. How about the soulful electro-jazzy house joints of the Ananda Project, funky mbaqanga moves of the Soul Borthers and the talking guitar Oliver Mtukudzi threw into his ‘world music’ mix? Um, maybe, I guess so. Okay, you get the point: at the CTIJF jazz is, to appropriate Miles Davis’ maxim, about hearing it first and telling you what it is later. Then again, maybe that jazz tag is just a billing the punters need to know they’re getting exclusivity most South Africans can’t afford?

Exclusivity is certainly what those jazz buffs who coughed up an extra R25 for a reserved seat got on the Rosies stage. Javon Jackson’s Superband were good, his sax playing was velvet-toned, note perfect and the rhythm section led by the inimitable Jimmy Cobb super tight. Perhaps too tight? Something was missing, tuning into his post-Sony Rollins runs was a pleasurable, but strangely sedate listening affair at times.

No such problem with the Zimology Quartet who's avant-garde adventures in improvised sound blew most hearts and minds. Hearing the usually dignified Rosies patrons whooping along to improvisations around signature standards "Long Waltz to Freedom" and "Ebhofolo (The Madness)" was a welcome reminder that in the hands of a master improviser jazz is invariably also in the ear of the beholder.
And the eyes. Peter Erskine is rated one of the best drummers in the world and he had a whole fan club of stick men riveted in the front row for his percolated post-bop set with Swedish sax man Lennart Åberg’s Band at Rosies. It was pretty amazing. Pity then that a classy songbird such as Tierney Sutton was left swinging her way through some sultry standards before a less than half empty auditorium round midnight.

Then again, maybe it was that R25 that put the average punter off. Or maybe the fact that festivalgoers were by now well lubricated enough for Skwatta Kamp's 11th hour relocation to the outdoor Basil 'Manenberg' Coetzee stage. Despite playing with a live backing band they apparently hadn't met before the fest, the Kamp rocked the masses, romping into the early hours of Saturday morning with slickly choreographed self-pimping anthem "The Clap Clap Song".

And then there was the Kippies stage, which was home to all the headline acts including Sergio Mendes, the Manhattans, Jimmy Dludlu and the Soul Brothers. It’s an echoing cavern of a room with a barricade at the back so you can’t overthrow the corporate elite. The unquestionable highlight was Oliver Mtukudzi on Saturday night. He was such a beautiful glowing presence in his white suit that it wrung the heart to think of the way people are living in Zimbabwe, and how it must feel to miss your election because you’re playing a gig for your fat neighbours who don’t seem to concern themselves at all with their starving neighbors.

After such a sobering moment, the Bassline stage was a guaranteed good bet. Especially since it was where all the more 'crossover' acts played from crazy Balkan gypsy party animals the Kolo Novo Movie Band and improvised electronic jammers The Bays (they never rehearse!) to funky acid jazzy travelers Timbuktu and Damn! It's a great outdoor stage addition to the fest. Situated outside the Cullinan Hotel under the stars, there was enough space to not be constantly jostled, bustled, and bumped, and there were picnic tables and pretty lights in the trees.

Not a bad way to round off your jazz fest experience with Zola, who was….well, Zola: serenading the ladies before getting everyone jumping with a 'ghetto fabulous' collection of his greatest hits. So maybe it wasn’t jazz, but it was the perfect end to a long festival that maxed your brain out on blue notes, your emotions on politics, and your credit card on tickets, food, booze, and wait…another ticket to catch the last half of pianist Kenny Barron cooking at Rosies?

- Mary Faragher and Miles Keylock

The Cape Town International Jazz Festival is a big deal in the Mother City with jazz tourists flocking from across the country and all over the world. There are five stages, a corporate VIP section, a President’s lounge, a dedicated media centre, two free concerts, workshops, master classes, hundreds of caterers, millions of security guys, bright lights and shiny white tiles. And a super star jazz line-up of course including Brazilian bossa nova maestro Sergio Mendes, legendary drummer Jimmy Cob
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