The Cape Town International Jazz Festival makes a point of curating a line-up that celebrates traditional jazz greats both internationally and locally, but it also acknowledges that jazz is evolutionary, and that the modern age of music is just as important.
Every year I’m exposed to new musicians from all over the world who I can’t believe I’d ever been living without, and the lineup for Day 2 at the jazz festival is a celebration as much as it is an education.
This is what Day 2 would’ve looked like.
Austebza (SA) – All hail the Queen of Groove, singer, composer, and bad-ass bassist AusTebza. She’s been all over the South African scene in many iterations. Hers is a spiritual blend of gospel influence with R&B sass and jazz rhythm. She planned on dropping her second album at the festival but we’ll all have to wait a little longer for that now, but it’ll be worth it.
Elementaal (IN/SA) – In the one corner we have Indian film score composer, music director and arranger, singer, and drummer Ranjit Barot. In the other, classical precussionist and composer Taufiq Qureshi. The masters of World rhythms would be joined by Indian child prodigy flautist, Amith Nadiq, and preogressive South African pianist Kyle Shepherd for a merging of classical, oriental, and electronic sounds – Nu World music, if you will.
Ezraa Collective – these guys aren’t playing around. Their sound is rooted in classical jazz, but there’s a strong Afrobeat and hip hop groove that is distinctly London, which they all call home. The 5-piece has been dubbed as pioneering a new age of UK jazz and after a string of award-winning EPs, dropped their debut album in 2019. You’re going to want to pay attention.
Gabi Motuba – there is something gripping about the award-winning South African jazz vocalist, arranger and composer, Gabi Motuba’s approach to music and performance. She performs with the vulnerable expression and honesty and creates almost sacred-sounding songs that build on a journey. She’s special.
Grassy Spark – can we get a ‘howsit’ for our boys Grassy Spark? In fact, an individual shout out to Yanick Bathfield (guitarist and vocalist), Josh Riley (guitarist and vocalist), Kevin Kok (bass), Simon Ackerman (vocals and synth) and Lawrence Jaeger (drummer), who’ve been crushing the live music scene since 2012? They’ve honestly slayed just about every festival stage in the country… this would’ve been the first time they took their ska/reggae/synth funk pop -stylings to the Cape Town International Jazz Festival stage. They’re a lesson in staying relevant.
Jacob Collier – I am honestly not worthy of introducing Jacob Collier, one of the most innovative musicians of our generation. He stepped onto the digital scene by posting complex, densely-layered and ridiculously groovy arrangemenst of famous pop songs, all from the comfort of his bedroom in the UK. Now he’s hanging out with music greats like Stevie Wonder, comparing composition techniques with jazz legend Herbie Hancock, and snatching up Grammy Awards. This is music royalty at its modern best and I’m praying to the musical gods to make sure he does pop by when this whole saga’s over ‘cause wow!
Jonathan Butler ft Candy Dulfer – A south african jazz legend in his own right, the R&B, gospel and jazz guitarist and vocalist is a regular on the CTIJF stage. Butler is known for keeping things fresh every time he returns to the jazz fest stafe and this time around he was to play alongside the gorgeous and virtuosic Dutch saxophonist Candy Dulfer. Definitely putting a bookmark in this collaboration, a future must-see.
Judith Sephuma – Attention, mere mortals, and bow before the Queen of Afro-jazz, a favourite on the CTIJF stage but also at top jazz festivals the world over. The multi award-winning vocalist has been dominating the game for over 20 years now, and she specifically told me to tell you guys that “You better be ready, ‘cause Im bringing a show!”
Kokoroko – I don’t know what London puts in their water, but their musicians are a special breed. Another British band who’re especially hot on the London jazz scene right now, and creeping their way across the world might I add, is Kokoroko. Their sound is a tribal ceremony of Afro-beat rhythms, West African harmony, and urban edge. I swore I would never use the word eclectic – they changed my mind.
Nduduzo Makhathini – Kwazulu Natal -hailing jazz pianist and composer Nduduzo Makhatini has, through his mastery and with his wide repertoire of compositions, earned himself a reputation locally and internationally as a prolific musician. His most recent album is being released through American label Blue Note Records, which is a first for any South African. His sound is a complex combination of modal jazz and African rhythmic concepts – simply put, he’s powerful.
PJ Morton – this man is the Stevie Wonder of our generation. He just exudes soul, R&B, and mad gospel chops. He’s worked with the greats like Stevie Wonder, Solange, and Erykah Badu, so you know he’s oozing that soulful goodness. His is personally one of my favourite NPR Tiny Desk performances ever, and his album “Gumbo” is kinda life-changing. You can thank me later.
Reising, Ntuli, Cooper, Baumann – composed of Swizz musicians Benedikt Reising (saxophonist) and Rico Baumann (drummer) and South African counterparts Shane Cooper (producer and bassist) and Thandi Ntuli (award-winning vocalist, pianist and composer), they’ve all collaborated in different iterations. This would’ve been a first, and part of a world tour promoting their debut album. They’re all masters of numerous trades, and this collaboration sees them bring it all together in fresh, powerful, cross-continental harmony.
Sounds of Brass – having spoken to South African saxophonist Don Vino and festival director Billy Domingo ahead of the jazz festival, and felt their excitement for this unusual combination of horns, I know this would’ve been one of the standout performances at jazz fest. The band is a combination of some of South Africa’s most talented horn players across two generations. The band includes Don Vino (saxophone), Marcus Wyatt (trumpet player, composer), Sisonke Xonti (saxophone), Georgia Jones (baritone saxophone), Byron Adams (saxophone and vocalist). It’s an encapsulation of the South African sound that the world needs, a project that Don Vino has hopes to continue long after their festival performance.
Take our Day 2 playlist for a spin. Spending virtual time with the musicians on the jazz festival’s 2020 lineup honestly gave me something to look forward to for when we get to the other side of this COVID-19 thing.
Check out what Day 1 might have sounded like.
Check out what the Free Community Concert is all about.
Hang in there and don’t stop washing your hands.
Feature image courtesy of Chad Camarinha.