South Africa is getting ready to celebrate a new edition of “Africa’s Grandest Gathering,” the Cape Town International Jazz Festival. On Friday 28 and Saturday 29 March, Cape Town will host the largest music event in sub-Saharan Africa. What better way to celebrate jazz music in South Africa than inviting some of the world’s best performers? At the Cape Town International Jazz Festival 2014 there are so many great music acts that it’s difficult to choose which one to start from.
Over the course of a stellar career that has spanned more than 30 years, Grammy Award winner Kenny Garrett has become one of the most prominent alto saxophonists of his generation. Garrett’s impact on jazz music was evident since his first gig with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Throughout three decades, Garrett has performed with the likes of Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw and Miles Davis and has been awarded several important prizes including a Soul Train Award, an Echo Award and Honorary Doctorate in Music from Berklee College of Music. For the second year in a row, he won a Downbeat Poll bringing the total number of wins in the alto saxophone category to eight.
When talking about contemporary saxophone’s maestros you know that the name Kirk Whalum will come up. During the years, the tenor saxophonist has collaborated with industry icons like Al Jarreau, Barbara Streisand, Quincy Jones and Whitney Houston (for the mega-hit I Will Always Love You). At the Cape Town Jazz Fest 2014, Whalum will bring his much celebrated series The Gospel According to Jazz, a first-time event in Africa.
California-born Ambrose Akinmusire and Brooklyn-based band Snarky Puppy are some of the most exciting contemporary jazz acts. After appearing as sideman with stars like Vijay Iyer and Steve Coleman, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire has become one of the young rising stars in the North American jazz scene. After winning the 2007 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition and the 2007 Carmine Caruso International Jazz Trumpet Solo Competition, Akinmusire proved to be one of the most vital and deft trumpeters of his generation. He and his Ambrose Akinmusire Quintet will bring their New York-styled jazz to Cape Town. Snarky Puppy is another hot jazz act from the Big Apple. One of the coolest jazz bands around, Snarky Puppy recently won the 2014 Grammy Award along with Lalah Hathway in the “Best R&B Performance” with the single Something.
The jazz celebration at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival will also feature the multi-cultural band TIZER Quintet. Led by Colorado native keyboardist Lao Tizer, the group has established itself as one the most in-demand contemporary jazz acts. Their explosive mix of jazz, rock, classical music and world rhythms drew the attention of stars like George Benson, Al Jarreau, Jethro Tull and Robin Thicke, who all wanted TIZER to perform with them. Also appearing at the 2014 Cape Town International Jazz Festival will be New York multi-award winning pianist Randy Weston. Encompassing the vast rhythmic heritage of Africa, Weston’s career has spanned over six decades and continues to inform and inspire audiences around the world with an intelligent fresh synthesis of African elements and jazz.
What jazz celebration would it be without Africa’s leading jazz artists? This is why, Africa’s Grandest Gathering is set to gather some of the continent’s best jazz acts. Performers like trombonist Jonas Gwangwa, known for his creative genius and for compositions like the original score for Richard Attenborough’s movie Cry Freedom, which received an Oscar, Grammy Bafta and Golden Globe nominations. Or artists like acapella singing group The Soil, 21-years old alternative pop singer and chart-topper Jimmy Nevis, Cape Town’s up and coming bassist Shane Cooper or the four-guitarists band The Shape of Strings to Come.
When talking about influential South African masters, Abdullah Ibrahim definitely makes the list. The Cape Town-born pianist is one of Africa’s most distinguished jazz musicians. Dividing his time between South Africa and the US, Ibrahim plays a repertoire in which the musical influences of his childhood, from traditional African songs to gospel and modern jazz, are evident.
The Blue Note Tribute Orkestra is not a tribute band of the Big Apple’s Blue Note Jazz Club. Instead, the band commemorates the legendary ’60s South African jazz sextet the Blue Notes. At the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, the Tribute Orkestra will continue doing what they do best: capture the audience and keep the traditions of South African jazz alive.
At the Cape Town International Jazz Fest, Senegal will be represented by star singer Moh Dediouf. After studying in France, Dediouf embarked in a successful musical career filled with collaborations with dozens of European, African and American artists. In 2007, he released his first, self-produced, solo album. Acclaimed in the industry, it won the first prize in the World Music Category of the US International Songwriting Competition with the song Adouana.
The list of African acts of the 2014 Cape Town International Jazz Festival also includes Mozambique’s Frank Paco Art Ensemble, “storyteller” Jaco Maria and more South African artists: local rising star Mathew Gold, award-winning band Ological Studies and Soul Housing Project, undoubtedly one of Cape Town’s most exciting live acts.
International Award-Winning Acts and Rising Stars
The lineup of the Cape Town International Jazz Fest features more exciting internationally-acclaimed acts. Lalah Hathaway, “the first daughter of Soul”, is known for much more than simply being the daughter of legendary singer Donny Hathaway. A graduate of the Berklee School of Music, pianist and vocalist, Lalah Hathaway has followed the footsteps of her father to become one of the most in-demand American singers. After collaborations with the likes of Marcus Miller, George Benson and Mary J. Blige, Hathaway received a much-deserved Grammy Award in the “Best R&B Performance” for her contribution to Snarky Puppy’s single Something.
Dallas-born singer Erykah Badu doesn’t need much introductions. Undoubtedly one of the most hard-working, controversial and critically-acclaimed R&B, neo-soul and hip hop performers, she is known worldwide for her unique vocal and freestyling skills, as well as for her signature hairstyle. Speaking of hard-working women in music, Cape Town International Jazz Fest will also welcome Carmen Lundy. A successful career of over three decades, top-chart hits, several award nominations and sold-out performances make her one of the most celebrated jazz singers throughout the world. In addition to being a talented jazz vocalist, who is often considered “not retro, but the real deal with an adventurous slyle and imposing voice”, Carmen Lundy is also a celebrated mixed media artist and painter. Her works have been exhibited in New York at The Jazz Gallery in Soho, at The Jazz Bakery in Los Angeles, and at the Madrid Theatre in Los Angeles.
The multi-award winning jazz-funk band Shakatak and the “evergreen” Level 42 will be the UK’s “musical ambassadors” in Cape Town. Founded in 1980, Shakatak has enjoyed an incredible success and career longevity rarely paralleled in contemporary music. In addition to its successful recording career, the band had firmly established itself as one of the UK’s most exciting and vibrant live acts. The pop, rock and jazz-funk band Level 42 is another success story in the UK music scene. Over the past three decades, they have released numerous commercially successful hits and have gained recognition and fame all around the world. Known for their high-calibre musicianship, like Mark King’s signature grooving slap-bass guitar technique, Level 42 are one of the most influential UK bands.
Australian up and comers Hiatus Kaiyote haven’t been around for thirty years, but are definitely on the right track to become a great band. Their eclectic repertoire, which combines influences from Stevie Wonder, Tupca Shakur, Flying Lotus, flamenco and traditional music from Mali and Colombia, takes the audience along for an imaginative journey across the breath-taking wide-open landscapes of Australia. These rising stars out of Melbourne have been considered one of the most promising young bands by R&B and hip hop stars like Questlove, Erykah Badu and Q-Tip, who also appeared in Hiatus Kaiyote Grammy-Award nominee hit Nakamarra.
On 28 and 29 March, Cape Town will be the world’s jazz capital. Jazz, R&B, hip hop and African rhythms and international of the past and present make the Cape Town International Jazz Festival one of Africa’s most exciting music festivals. If you love music and want to celebrate in one of the world’s most cheerful and entertaining atmospheres, that only Africa can offer, then Cape Town Jazz Fest is the place for you. For more information on the festival and the complete programme click here
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Cape Town, South Africa
28 – 29 March