Jazz, Pap, Coffee and Easter Egg

2010-04-06 08:49
Judith Sephuma

Or this is how these poor kids must feel. The Delft Youth Big Band plays us into the weekend of drunken, adult debauchery and the like. Cute. Nervous. Though they could blow the shit out of their brass against me, if jazz were sex (and it is) this is appropriately virginal. Young men with all the timing of young men. They do some Mangione, they hazard Etta James, they do Earth, Wind & Fire's "Got to get you into my life". Give them something else but don’t try squeezing The Phoenix Horns' gymnastics out of them. Cruel. And I leave an imminent miscarriage. At least they have time on their side and for where they are they might end up just fine! Then it was off to the Bassline stage…

Saturday Night Photo Gallery
Sunday Night Photo Gallery

"Iridium" might sound like some sort of clandestine periodic table of elements’ element & elemental is as elemental does. Pulsing bass lines draw me & my id to its namesake. Now a windswept dust bowl, I had stepped into post-apocalyptic Australian outback. Was that Tina Turner crowd-wrapped? You've messed up when your lead vocalist calls "let's start clapping South Africa. Let's get this vibe going!" Probably not fair on a fairly decent backing set up. The overwhelming volume of the men on the wheels of steel was no help either. (I must start writing in the past tense when an act is verging on self-destruction to me. Here's to more 'are's'). For all that, this RJ Benjamin is relatively uninvasive but smacks of Danny K. Try not to concentrate on lyrics though, this is a DJ thing. "Hey everybody, everything that's happening now is happening right now!" Probably a fair observation but corpses float and the choppy waters shake up the stink now and then. Seeing the colours & instrumental ensemble, I wish it had been The Go! Team. Totally different sound but I just want some Go Team is all. Also, home-cooked potpie; a set of gigantic boobs (on me, not 'on' me, err…). They did what they were supposed to; the crowd is warm.

Perhaps hyper-critical to begin with but I've had my coffee now, serene, does Buddha know this feeling? They've calmed down too, dangerously 'Bar' after said oriental deity but less obnoxious and gung ho. Some female tones help now and they fixed the sound since my java hunt. So, 'uninvasive' is neither here nor there but at least he wasn't hamming up Withers' "Who is he and what is he to you". The warmer side of things served him better than the pre-packaged pop hisses of 'uh's', 'ah's' and 'yeah's'. It's primarily white dudes in fedoras who harden over some slap-bass but it's some cute kind of throwback. We're at a jazz concert per nom de plume and the only thing roughly jazz at Iridium is the unprocessed bass. There's a hint at the chance to cat call and howl like bygone, bebop connoisseurs. But heck. Nothing intellectual here, people just want to dance, right? Why not. There are too many cute Scandis and Asians beaming and jiggling to say no to the so called project. You win this time Benjamin! Though he loses where there's also what is without doubt a bona fide crazywoman who's lost control of her limbs and touristy decorum. Are those tights painted on? She's crazy but that ass has all the juice for dust-stomping to this Goldfish derivative. Happy for her. Happy for them.

What the duck? Japanese James Brown. I hope my expectations for Soil & PIMP (whatever) are met and surpassed. How can you go wrong? Drummer in pyjama pants and 'fro. Man in stripy, blue and red gown and Elvis impersonator shades looks deathly serious fiddling with his mixer, calibrating our crushing defeat. You bastards better deliver! I'm sorry Vusi Mahlasela over at Kippies, but I'm sure you're at least three decades above my appraisal. By crumb you were asked to deliver a performance where most deliver lectures at TED! Besides, I simply MUST bear witness to this far-eastern freakshow. If the bio pics are anything to go by, they work hard (these vestments weren’t just stitched by mom) but don't take themselves too seriously. "I laughed my ass off too but my friend says they're f**king good!" from a tiny, bald man behind me. Someone just told me they read a local article on these gents where the author said "Japan is not known for jazz". I don't know who you are man, but you're writing on music and you're an idiot. Of course no one's ever heard of Sadao Watanabe or Keiko Matsui or Hiromi Uehara. And here’s where I'll mention Yellow Magic Orchestra, unrelated for not being jazz but I love them hard!

HOLY SHIT! I jump! And scream! And clap! SOIL & 'PIMP' Sessions are champions of music! I sang into the mic "la da daa da da daa" (think Stevie's "My cherie amour" but funk) at the bidding of The PIMP who grinned approval and now skims 30% off the top of everything I do. And on my previous 'tense policy', off my back you pedantic Fascists! It's technique of the journalistic ages that commands the juggle of singing with an intercontinental, glam-PIMP MC & immortalising the experience in print.

My shoes are a bedlam of dust, coffee (mine, this is #2) and drink (other people's)! 2010 is the year for sobriety, at least for this weekend. Last year was essentially the same amount of work with more free press food and drink to be plied with for positive comment. And it seems like I'm the only pen working this place from the ground up. As usual, the bulk of lenses and pens gorge themselves on the upstairs, the buffet for propaganda! ... Or free food as I took it not so long ago. Passes on necks? Nowhere to be seen. Let's see what's published in the week. Regurgitations and word-of-mouth? I hope not. They would've missed some hell of a show. Though eavesdropping got me sound word of Judith Sephuma as "upbeat" and "more lively than expected".

On sobriety however, SOIL & 'PIMP' Sessions saw the counter-intuitive litmus test for music concerts. The second the horns broke, a green mist rose from between us. "By Thor! This is tight enough for me to want to get blazed and possibly forget proceedings by the morn!" Fools! But loveable and supportive nevertheless. "He’s got laak hair laak ?uestlove from The Roots." Says horizontal-striped jock to horizontal-striped jock to my 5 o' clock. Don't judge a book but you probably also shouldn't let your kid son wear a black beret to a jazz festival and gesticulate wildly at his elder peers. But who am I to judge? A god damn subjective journalist, that's who! But nice that he's interested in this set of genre, that cumbersome, single word again, nevertheless.

Now here's something else. I could've been listening comfortably to Freshlyground's Zolani with MiKANiC but I've migrated to Marcus Wyatt and his Language 12 project. Tiny vocalist Siya Makuzeni belting out a scat & doo wop of whale and Eiland calls (or was that the blue duiker?) without a scratch of self-consciousness. Her control is perfect and this multi-ethnic, age cross section exercises something most young folks lack in spite of their ferocity and energy: restraint. Extroversion is also a defence mechanism and young ones can be self-indulgent. But if they’d just listen to Yusef Lateef or Charles Lloyd, a bit later actually... A hint at the piano and cool of Herb's "Rise". These people know what's going on. Forgot to breathe for a second.

Madam Bliss but Wyatt looks like an auld seafarer tearing at the seams on the highs but blows a flugelhorn for the Wikipedia entry. Not generic, no, definitive. All retreat to the wings and let the bassist "play" in the kid's sense of the word. Don't get me wrong, not selling it short, he's having fun pulling out sounds of kalimbas, koras & scooter revs with clever waves of a magician's hands. Important, it's over as quickly as a good card trick & is by no stretch a 12 minute drum solo on Kashmir. Proof that South African musicians needn't suffer or suffer themselves unto relegation to the safe and uncriticisable (word?) province of genre-by-nationality. Biblical talk for an Easter weekend of music and other sweets. 12th language sure but I think I lost something in lyrics when little Siya had been put against some manner of 70s, space-age voice effect. I'd got to hearing her as an instrument and though instrumental, poetry took a backseat to FX experimentation. Still, it's the flugelhorn that leads, though as nominal jazz necessitates there's harmonious dependency and participation by each voice and these players are spot on with no conscious idea of prescription, seems.

Now there's no need for that is there? I've flicked the black elastic off the Moleskine as a gunslinger might the holster clip for a quick draw. A strange medium then and a hard way to catch each wall of light and lead buckshot to keep the Western comparison. Was it that green mist? Why didn't you bring a video camera again you dull twat? At least the tea-totalling's kept the Hunter Stockton Thompson haunting away this time. Everyone who 'reports' insofar as gonzo reports emulates HST at the outset (uncanny considering the following but I just wrote down contact details for a local big cheese in SA music journalism) but what I'm looking for is the ability to reproduce myself at these things, press cred, free food place, the works! But a bit of the good doctor never hurt any piece.

There goes the caffeine lost to the machinations of what I can only assume is the bridge of an interstellar, urinary vessel (not the Galactic Penis. Don't Google that. I wouldn't and I just made it up). The pentagonal plastic star ship has five urinals which are arranged something mystical. Two visitors might gather the courage and curiosity to seek out three other lavatorians to piss together JUST to see what happens. Rygar 7. Engage. I think no but I was alone (go find a short story by HST about him at the porcelain and the peeping jaguar he caught when looking up from his business, by the way).

You can't tell drunk & sane apart at 23h37 at a Cape Town Jazz Fest. The event is a collective coming out party for the wild man in all (especially Germans). Come through, I’m watching your dad dance with a Rasta right now! We also aren't much sure if we’re dancing to the intermittent DJ Transito or warming our instruments while Brooklyn Funk Essentials do theirs. Cape Town is eager to reciprocate performance if it means fine acts like these come back. No time wasted! The drummer pulls out something trip and quick! I’ll be back...

The Brooklyn Funk Essentials: A Retrospective... In a selection of shiny bites of trivia, the MC announces with all the enthusiasm of a script that "the next act has performed with the likes of The Roots, Jamiroquai & James Brown". In keeping with script-think, the instruments jog out half-heartedly & play us into a textbook funk intro where you hear The JBs & in an effort of bravery to break with rehearsals a hook of Maceo's "Cross the tracks" is thrown in to reiterate association. On cue the vocals storm the stage in three men of not atypical lead vocalist fashion of bravado & maybe hubris. But why? The entrance was pitiful and wreaked of regimented planning, they had prepared for a show & not a performance, if you get me because I'm not sure I do. Jazz surefire number 2: freedom of expression. These guys could've been recording a studio album or cased in a glass cube like some yuck fetisch of ticket sales & pragmatism in pre-war II Berlin.

And it's on that point I admit to them having copped a laugh from me at their admonishing of the product mentality in track 3's lyric of "I hope you drown in a lake of Diet Coke & Papa Dee" not without an ironic grin. Think Gil Scott-Heron's "Message to the messengers", tempo, tone & sticky badness (you decipher). I was being prickly to a band that got Billboard Magazine’s vote for album of the year a while back. Then, with clockwork precision, the BFE loosen up & rip Sly & The Family Stone's "I want to take you higher". I find myself bobbing, hand high as one might in a charismatic church or somewhere where free cake's being handed out. It's a fair assumption that my uppercuts & guttural roars for the trumpet to "blow" and to "blow that f**king thing" proved useful. The BFE finally came to the jazz festival. Tiny baldman (2nd) charged the vocals like a tour de force for bald men everywhere! From there on it was the region of reggae and all else south of the western equator. Their audience throbbed. Good show BK (and the series of obscure nations like 'Sweden' who constitute you). Thus far though, BFE 3 joints sniffed; SOIL & ‘PIMP’ Sessions 5 joints sniffed. But as always, Saturday's punch line is strong enough to keep me for Sunday, keep me crushing pens and keep me caffeinated. Saturday's meals: Pap, coffee, coffee.

Next Page: Part 2 of our gonzo trip into the Cape Town International Jazz Fest

Alone. No press affiliation. No carrier. Having just hugged an ex-colleague I scurry away to the rat-infested, ankle-high bilge water of the common people at R450 a pop. Strange, I felt the strip-search, a literal scanning for the dompas on my neck. Sobukwe burnt them Julius! Wait. This is the 11th annual Cape Town International Jazz Festival. This is how Mexicans north of the border must feel or Sri Lankans in Dubai.

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