The Standard Bank Joy of Jazz announced the artist line-up for the 20th instalment which takes place from 28 to 30 September at the Sandton Convention Centre.
It’s arguably the strongest offering in the festival’s recent history. Central to the selection’s underlying discourse is the importance of honouring our evergreen jazz heritage. Consider that Standard Bank Joy of Jazz, as it celebrates its 20th anniversary edition, is a flag bearer for more than just an annual musical gathering, but it is a co-custodian of a larger jazz culture in our country.
The musicians on offer all stack up to point festival goers to the living roots of modern South African jazz too. This is a narrative that involves curating a list that highlights our place on the African continent, and our perennial dialogue with the creative musical tradition of the trans-atlantic experience. By this we refer to a thoroughly modern culture that connects African, Caribbean, American, and European creative exchanges that result from voyages across that big mass of water. The artists who will ascend the festival’s four stages over the three days this September, seem to have been selected with deeper ideals than just musical entertainment. This is a line-up for the ages.
Think about the importance Salif Keita’s place in the pan African pool of musical genius. Often referred to as the "golden voice of Mali," Keita will share the Conga Stage with a number of continentally focused musicians. Lesotho’s Tshepo Tshola, the now American based singer and songwriter of Rwandan andUgandandescent, Somi; our own guitar wizard, Selaelo Selota who straddles musical vernaculars of the Limpopo region with an internationalist thrust will give meaning to that stage too.
Then there is Abdullah Ibrahim, who is considered the true heir to Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk thanks to his ability to “invent singable melodies out of quirky note choices and off-kilter rhythms, as a composer and improviser”, to quote Geoffrey Himes of Downbeat. Now when you consider that Ibrahim, Hugh Masekela, and Jonas Gwangwa are all on the bill. Together they represent the remaining members of the Jazz Epistles. The band that produced South Africa’s first Bee-Bop record titled, Jazz Epistle, Verse 1 in 1960. This was also the first album by a black South African band ever recorded. The other living member of the band is Makhaya Ntshoko who now lives in Europe. Kieppie Moeketsi, Early Mabuza and Johnny Gertze have all since passed away.
Now if you rearrange that combination as Masekela, Gwangwa and adding Caiphus Semenya who will be on the Mbira stage, we have another historic piece of South African jazz represented: Hugh Masekela and The Union of South Africa. The band mastered an inspired melange of soul, highlife, and straight jazz.
For enthusiasts of post-bop and straight ahead jazz, bass genius Christian Macbride, reedmen Branford Marsalis, Joshua Redman along with the Clayton Brothers represent a rare treat. Their presence on Dinaledi Stage is a nod to the jazz police and purist. Marsalis and Redman are two composer reed-men who came along at an important time in the story of jazz music. They were part of a generation of musicians who forged a revival in popular interest for jazz music at the time when the music was going through a wane. Along with Marsalis’ trumpeter brother, Wynton and a handful of others were considered keepers of the lofty values of the tradition.
To an undiscerning eye, this line up may seem to be lacking youthful fervour in the form of contemporary young lions from our shores. However, they may have to check the quality of the personnel on the Mabida Bay Jazz Orchestra featuring inter alia, rising sax-man Sisonke Xonti and vocalist, Phinda Matlala, along with the 2017 Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz, Benjamin Jephta or the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Band.
As if to register the attendant celebration at play in this year’s jamboree, Standard Bank has worked in some discounts for ticket buyers.
All Standard Bank debit or cheque card holders get a 10% discount, and a 15% discount if using a Standard Bank credit card. The offer is limited to two tickets per person, and only on usage of a valid Standard Bank debit and/or credit card. This offer is subject to availability and will end on 31 August 2017.