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Catch The Blue Notes Tribute Orkestra at The Orbit Festival

2018-03-11 00:00

Johannesburg - One of the best South African jazz records released last year was Live at the Bird’s Eye Jazz Club – the first recording from The Blue Notes Tribute Orkestra.

The Blue Notes was a famous South African jazz band founded in the early 1960s.

The album features the music of The Blue Notes members, played by a handful of South African musicians in collaboration with Swiss musicians.

It features stellar piano work by Afrika Mkhize, drumming by Ayanda Sikade, and horn work by Marcus Wyatt and Siya Makuzeni.

Wyatt says The Blue Notes Tribute Orkestra’s first gig came about through an event hosted by Chimurenga magazine.

“They were doing a tribute to some of the guys who were in The Blue Notes and they asked me if I would put together a small project to play some of the music,” says Wyatt.

Formed in Cape Town, the seminal line-up of The Blue Notes consisted of Chris McGregor on piano, Mongezi Feza on trumpet, Dudu Pukwana on alto saxophone, Nikele Moyake on tenor saxophone, Johnny Dyani on bass and Louis Moholo on drums.

They left South Africa in 1964 and established themselves on the European jazz circuit, where they gigged and recorded throughout the 60s and 70s.

It was in London where they played a major part in the early foundations of the British avant-garde jazz scene and were recognised as one of the great free jazz bands.

Hazel Miller, co-founder of jazz record label Ogun Records, was interviewed about The Blue Notes for Lloyd Bradley’s book Sounds Like London: 100 Years of Black Music in the Capital.

“They were amazing people, each of them a larger than life character and when they got here, they just steamed in feet first. Some people said they were wild – and they were borderline wild,” says Miller.

“They were free spirits and very intuitive as musicians, so I suppose some of what they were letting loose in London comes from being brought up in an oppressive regime, and once they had the freedom to play, they just played.”

In Bradley’s book, Mike Westbrook – a pianist who played with members of The Blue Notes in London – recalls that the band “played a fairly pure hard-driving bop with a verve and spontaneity that bordered on abandon”.

“Clearly enjoying themselves on stage, shouting to each other, cracking jokes – both verbal and musical – and sweeping their audience along with them,” he recalls.

Jazz musician and Standard Bank Young Artist 2016 winner for jazz, Makuzeni describes The Blues Notes’ music quite simply: “It’s punk. And properly so.”

Makuzeni says she was first introduced to the band’s music while studying at Rhodes University in the Eastern Cape.

While The Blue Notes’ music is dominated by horn sounds, she says that the more she listened, the more the band’s raw energy pulled her in.

“These musicians were using their art as resistance,” she says. “They really were quite ahead on many levels.

“It’s an important story. One with a lot of teachings and lessons that I still learn from.” – Lloyd Gedye

Catch The Blue Notes Tribute Orkestra on March 13 at 21:00. Entrance R150 at the door. Bookings can be made in advance on or by phone +27(0)11 339 6645 or +27 (0) 81 53 42 867. Tickets can also be bought by contactingt their Guest Relations Manager on, by phone +27(0)11 339 6645 or at the door on the day of the event.

What to expect at The Orbit Festival

The Orbit Anniversary Festival, this year dubbed #The4thMovement, takes place from March 13 to 18.

Mama said that much like the fourth movement of a symphony explores themes from the first movement, The Orbit’s celebration would be about the last four years.

When The Orbit first opened its doors, pianist Andile Yenana and trumpeter Feya Faku were the performers on opening night.

Mama said one of the highlights of the festival would be the reunion of the legendary jazz quintet Voice, featuring Yenana, trumpeter Marcus Wyatt, saxophonist Sydney Mnisi, bass player Herbie Tsoaeli and drummer Morabo Morojele. They hadn’t played together in a decade.

Also performing would be new band Trio Grande featuring Faku, Paul Hanmer and Louis Mhlanga.

Also on the line up for the week were: Sibongile Khumalo, The Blue Notes Tribute Orkestra, Tlale Makhene’s Swazi Gold, Steve Dyer’s Mantswe a Marabi and Luyanda Madope’s Connecting Generations.

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