Another resounding success for the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, here's to the next ten years

The Cape Town International Jazz Festival has come and gone for another year, yet despite the problems that beset the festival again this year was a huge success.

The pulling out of one of the major sponsors Standard Bank has hurt, they have pulled all of their Arts and Culture sponsorship and with the will they, won’t they pull out attitude of a couple of the other major sponsors. Shame on them all, that bank is now pouring there millions into sport, specifically cricket to the detriment of what is the very soul of our wonderful nation, Arts Culture and Music. Thank goodness, I don‘t have an account with them because if I had I would have closed and finished any business dealings with the bank as protest of their attitude towards Arts, Culture and Music.

Enough of my ranting about the evils of awful, short-sighted sponsorship decisions made by companies in haste that will later be regretted and on with some of the happenings at the 2009 festival.

The Cape Town International Jazz Festival, now in its tenth year has again won the hearts and minds of jazz lovers not only from South Africa but from around the world. Many more visitors enjoying the talents of all of the musicians appearing at the festival, what with many more African media organisations sending representatives to report on the festivals activities. This alone offers wonderful networking opportunities with our cousins northwards of Cape Town. I met with fellow broadcasters and journalists from Cameroon, Kenya, Botswana, Mozambique, Nigeria and Angola as well as those regulars from Europe, the USA and South Africa. The African Jazz Festival circuit is growing with Mozambique starting in a few days and later this year another new chapter is opening with the very first Luanda Jazz Festival in Angola.

Music was again the winner at this years festival, like all jazz festivals around the globe other genres of music are becoming an important part of the jazz festival circuit. There are very few true jazz festivals around the world and we all understand the economics of the world today, therefore, we jazz lovers should have no problem that other genre styles are incorporated into today’s jazz festivals as long as jazz remains the mainstay of the festival concerned.

The Cape Town International Jazz Festival 2009 proved once again the music is a vital ingredient of the daily lifestyle no matter what manner of music one enjoys. I have been involved with this festival as an MC on the stages and conducting the general media conferences at the CTIJF for the past 10 years of the life of the festival and once again, this highlights the importance of this annual gathering to the economy of the city of Cape Town and South Africa.

Local musicians benefit immensely with the interaction with visiting international jazz masters and visa versa. Thanks must go to those visiting musicians who avail give their time so freely to the workshops and visits to small township music schools that have become synonymous with the CTIJF.

I was MCing on the main jazz stage Rosie’s as usual and found myself confined to that stage because the mix of music on both nights was just so good making it difficult to rush around to some of the other stages.

The honour of opening the “Rosie’s” Stage, so named after a number of famous jazz venues from the past. Guitarist Dr Molombo Philip Tabane whose inventive improvisational ideas have not been diminished by ravages of time and still remain as important today as they did way back in 1964 when he and the band won first prize at the Castle Lager Jazz Festival at Orlando Stadium in Soweto. Now i was too young to be there but the recording I have of that performance remains a favourite and holds a special place in my album collection. When he was invited to visit the USA, playing at the Newport Jazz Festival he sites as the highlight of that visit when Miles Davis, Charles Mingus and Stanley Turrentine joined him on stage. I hope that some wide-awake record company A & R person will take Dr Tabane and the band into the studio to record a new album, soon.

What can be said about the New York Voices that has not been said before, the excellence of the musical choices and arrangements are legendary world wide, their longevity in this fickle industry is testament to their worldwide appeal. They were somewhat surprised at their popularity in South Africa and gave a stupendous performance to a rapt audience that hung on to every note delivered. Even some of our very own and nationally known jazz singers and actresses, acted like teenage groupies when opportunity arose the meet with the group after their outstanding performance. I look forward to calling them in the near future to interview them on Jazz Rendezvous.

Next up was the legendary drummer Al Foster whose performance was a highlight for me, hey, what can I say each performance on the “Rosie’s” stage was a highlight. Bassist Doug Weiss, Pianist Gary Versace and Sax player Eli Degibri were all new to me and were a most important discovery to me, of new instrumentalists whose music I need to discover. Foster wowed the audience from the moment they took the stage and was a performance that will remain indelibly etched in the recesses of my memory. The CTIJF over the years has incorporated many of the huge jazz legends into their programme giving South African jazz lovers a taste of what we were not allowed to see and hear live, in our country of years gone by. Bring it on ESP Afrika we look forward to many more of these jazz greats on the “Rosie’s” stage.

Classical and jazz music are in my humble opinion are the highest form of musical expression so when the two meet it holds promise of excitement never heard before. Opera Meets Jazz, with two incredible South Africa musicians one opera singer and one jazz saxophonist, adding into the mix a classically trained Dutch jazz pianist showed that I was not wrong in my simple belief. Sibongile Khumalo, Shannon Mowday and Mike del Ferro ably backed by journeymen Cape Town muso’s bassist Shaun Johannes and drummer Kevin Gibson. I had strongly recommended, to Darmon Meader and Kim Nazarian that they should catch some of the performance, which they duly did and sat in the audience mesmerized. My expectations were exceeded I too was transfixed by what for me was the performance of the day by all concerned. It was a virtuoso performance by all three lead musicians and it was regrettable to discover that the performance was not recorded at all. This being the last performance of the day, which started well after midnight, saw a very large audience for the time of night enraptured by the amazing interpretations of many opera arias. The finale, Habanera from Carmen, adapted by Bizet from “El Arreglito” originally composed by Sebastian Yradier, bringing down the house making it a fitting closing of the first day of the 2009 CYIJF.

Day two of the festival saw the young Cape Town electric bassist, Jonathan Rubain starting the musical day off on the Basil “Manenberg” Coetzee stage at 15:30. Giving me some time to catch his performance, the only time I saw a performance on another stage after which I reported for duty on the Rosie's stage once again arriving much to my embarrassment a little late.

The Cape Town Jazz Orchestra, led so ably by Alvin Dyers showed the depth of young musical talent that Cape Town has to offer. The orchestra was an initiative and brainchild of Abdullah Ibrahim and Minister of Arts and Culture Dr Pallo Jordan. What a fine showing of this young talent with a number of the pieces played by the orchestra written by the members as well as a couple of well-known standards thrown in for good measure. The band is of such a high standard that they should be taken on tour around the world as part of an international out reach program, which they so richly deserve.

Then is was the turn of someone who has been on my wish list for the past six years, you see, every year I send CTIJF CEO Rashid Lombard my wish list, which is quite long. Diane Reeves, stepped onto the stage and took the audience on a musical journey never to be forgotten. From the very first note she sang she held the audience in the palm of her hand. She sang a number of her well-known songs and some from her latest album “When You Know”. Her impeccable phrasing and lyricism are something that many an aspiring young jazz vocalist tries to emulate. The audience was spellbound by this truly great multiple Grammy Award winning vocalist. She last visited S.A. in 2005 and left her mark on the audience, but on her first visit to Cape Town she blew the audience away with her wonderful performance and left a lingering memory on the psyche of the Cape Town audience which I’m sure gained her new fans.

He returns to his hometown after a long successful career in the mine dump strewn Jo’burg to perform in the shadow of Table Mountain and bringing a few friends along for the ride. Saxophonist McCoy Mrubata made Cape Town proud as once again this masterful instrumentalist showed how pleasing he is to an audience as a performer. He gave and they gave back the appreciation, his special friends all very well-known to the Cape and South African jazz lovers, gained new fans from the rest of Africa and the world with his musical prowess and infectuos tunes which left one wanting much, much more. The friends, Paul Hanmer, Louis Mhlanga, Kesivan Naidoo, Herbie Tsoaeli and Marcus Wyatt left little doubt as to why the are so sought after as sidemen by numerous band leaders. All in all a very satisfying performance by this group of South African musicians, who one hopes will take their sound and music to the stages of American, African, European and Eastern jazz festivals around the world.

The Dave Liebman Quartet closed the Rosie’s stage for another year and what a masterstroke it was to close this years festival with this self acknowledged Coltrane disciple. A lesson in jazz improvisation with an awesome band of guitarist Vic Jurusz, bassist Tony Marino and drummer Marco Marcinko. I noticed in the audience were many well-known South African reed men and music academics soaking up each note played with great glee and rapt attention. Again a late night performance that surprised by it virtuosity and an audience larger that I expected given the time and style of improvised music we were listening to.

To all the backroom boys and girls, you know, soundpersons, instrument tuners, stagehands, security persons, drivers, caterers, PR persons who worked so hard to make a success of the Cape Town International Jazz Festival 2009. I must offer a word of personal and special thanks to a young lady, who co-ordinated and assisted all the MC’s for this years festival often under trying circumstances, thank you Moratiwa for all your assistance.

A very satisfying CTIJF for me this year, though again did not see and hear all that a wanted to be that as it may it just gets better each year. One thing that I think escapes many of the festival attendees, are the musicians who perform in all the bands. Some of whom have very successful recording careers in their own right, pianists Peter Martin and Mark Soskin as well as guitarists Romero Lubambo and Vic Jurusz to name but a few something many festival goers missed out on, oh well, next year take special note and be prepared for a surprise or two.

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Jaijai, what a wonderful mission you've undertaken to create such a place for artistic minds to meet and share their hearts. A place to renew faded determinations, and revive lessened momentums. A place to display our wares and reconfirm to one another that we actually are on the right track.

I commend you, Jaijai, for caring so much that you created this castle of the heart for all of us. I want to share my praise for all of the new friends as well as old friends that I've met and will meet here in our castle. Here we can garnish the where-with-all, the strength, the conviction, and the selflessness through our symbiosis, to share our gift to the world with an unbiased agenda.

My mentor, Daisaku Ikeda says of art: "A beautiful flower delights and refreshes the hearts of all people equally, no matter what soil it grows in. That is the power of beauty. The same is true of great art. It is this spirit that the German poet Heinrich Heine sang of when he wrote that once the peapod bursts open, the sugar peas inside are for everyone to enjoy."

Let's be audacious, my friends!

Buster Williams


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