Chad and I felt like we nailed Day 1, so we were less nervous about Day 2 at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival.
We’d made a few stupid mistakes. We figured out what worked. And we even had room to get creative and wing it.
Confident swagger in motion, we occupied the territory in the media lounge that we’d commandeered the night before. The journos and photographers were all familiar by this point, and the bartender and I had developed a secret handshake.
The line-up, much to the good of our emotional well-being, had fewer must-see clashes. So many soulful musicians on the line-up, the theme for Day 2 was: take me to church.
Off we went to the first set.
The Lady Day Big Band, South Africa’s first all-female big band was first on our itinerary. The 20-piece big band is conducted by Amanda Tiffin (UCT College of Music), led by powerhouse vocalist and resident diva Lana Crowster, and trombonist Kelly Bell. Their set included local hits like Brenda Fassie’s “Weekend Special” straight into Malaika’s “Destiny”. Dressed in striking red outfits, their performance and energy set the Manenberg stage alight in a blaze of glory.
Grammy Award-winning musical prodigy and local icon, Jonathan Butler, has been touring the world for decades. But our favourite uncle brought it back home to the Kippies Stage, just for us. I couldn’t figure out if he was a better vocalist or guitarist. His flavour was old school R&B, soul and a bit of jazz – our very own Marvin-Gaye-meets-George-Benson.
With great difficulty, we stole away from Mr Butler’s set to catch 15 minutes of the Reza Khota Quartet. Reza (guitarist) and the band are part of a new wave of South African jazz – Jonno Sweetman (drums), Buddy Wells (sax), Nick Williams (bass). The set continued to build on driving rhythms, intricate melodies and space-like compositions, music Reza described as “between two or more dimensions”. Spot on!
Our entire festival journey had led to this moment: Moonchild. Not to be confused with Moonchild Sanelly, this neo-soul-hop trio hail from LA. I interviewed them earlier in the week, and actually fell more in love. Their stage presence is cool and calm. Amber’s voice is velvety, with childlike innocence but heaps of smooth soul. It’s just her, the two keyboardist/synth players, and a drummer. And then they each whip out another instrument and they’re a horn trio. Most of the audience were singing along. The rest wished they knew the lyrics. Neo-soul heaven.
The musical gods were good to us, allowing 30 minutes with UK producer, composer and pianist Alfa Mist. He and the band take you on a dark, groove-driven journey through old hip hop, jazz and soul. Most of the music’s instrumental but when he raps, he flows. Bassist and vocalist Kaya Thomas-Dyke sings over some of the music like an angel of the night – melancholy soul-hop.
The Manenberg Stage area was the fullest I’d seen it yet – FKJ was setting up, surrounded by instruments, all of which he plays really well. In a magnificent show of golden lights and silver smoke, he exploded the audience when he laid down the bass line for “Losing My Way”. Whether her was looping bass lines, plucking funky guitar riffs, blowing sax, singing or playing a piano solo, he was in full control of everything – most of all the crowd. He played every single hit. Vocalist Illioilili (don’t try pronounce that) made a most welcome appearance on Vibin’ Out and a few other songs. He also played a couple of darker, dirtier, club tracks which had everything moving.
Tuku Music a celebration of the music and life of Zimbabwean musician and philanthropist Oliver Mtukudzi was an honest tribute to an African legacy performed by musicians he used to play alongside. It was nostalgic and emotional.
Cory Henry & the Funk Apostles ended off the celebrations on the Manenberg Stage. Cory and the band are all ridiculously good and ridiculously soulful. Nick Semrad (keyboardist) had played the night before with Knower.
I’ve never seen a keyboardist dance and shred that well. They did jazz and gospel and funk and soul and they took us to church. Cory’s vocal and keyboard performance was akin to Stevie Wonder. His hype man role was the most convincing crowd control I’ve ever seen. He is a genius.
The Cape Town International Jazz Festival’s 20th celebration ended on the perfect, most energetic note. Everyone was tired, but no one was ready to go to bed.
In only two days, Chad and I had met, interviewed, snapped, taken selfies with, listened to, danced with and experienced some of the greatest living musicians on the planet.
The next time that some fool says “Music is dead!”, I’m gonna walk right up to them, punch them square in the chest and say, “Stop sleeping – the scene is cooking!”
All pics courtesy of Chad Camarinha.