ARCHIVE 2011: Each year sees international stars flocking to Grahamstown for shows with their local contemporaries at the National Arts Festival. In 2011, Cape Town got a slice of the action with the inaugural Silent Revolution Winter Jazz Series.
The Winter Jazz Series sees six performances spread over three nights at the Fugard Theatre Studio – a space which has been specially fitted to suit the needs of such concerts. The line-up of nightly double-bills features a host of musicians who will just have performed at the Standard Bank Jazz Festival in Grahamstown, including acclaimed American saxophonist Soweto Kinch, Swedish trumpeter Frederik Norén and Swiss vocal/bass pair Andreas Schaerer and Bänz Oester, as well as no less than four winners of the coveted annual Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Jazz.
“The Silent Revolution Winter Jazz Series is a collaboration with various people,” explains Marie Wilcox, co-founder of the series and MD of Silent Revolution. “We have been speaking to the National Arts Festival, and particularly with Alan Webster from Eastern Cape Jazz Promotions which is handling their jazz programme, for some time about creating concerts in Cape Town. This year, it all came together although, even in early May, we were not sure if the event would happen. We had sent proposals all over the place and they were well received, but often the news was that the timing was a little bit wrong in terms of funds. We decided that we had to do these concerts this year anyway – it had to happen. We decided to take the opportunity to bring some of the artists from the National Arts Festival to Cape Town, and to showcase some of the brilliant musicians that we have in Cape Town.”
It’s not just bluster and hyperbole when Wilcox raves about Mother City talent – the Winter Jazz Series features four Standard Bank Young Artist Jazz Award winners – and all of them are Cape Townians. Pianist Bokani Dyer (SBYAA 2011) will perform having returned from his showcase events as this year’s winner at the Standard Bank Jazz Festival in Grahamstown; vocalist Melanie Scholtz (SBYAA 2010) will present music that includes works of the two albums she recorded, partly thanks to funding from the award; drummer Kesivan Naidoo (SBYAA 2009) is one of the co-founders of the festival and will provide the rhythmic underpinning for sax-star Soweto Kinch’s set alongside double-bassist Shane Cooper (Thursday 7 July) while multi-instrumentalist Mark Fransman (SBYAA 2008) joins Swiss vocalist Andreas Schaerer and double bassist Bänz Oester (Friday 8 July). The four award winners also perform together when Scholtz performs with “The Dirty Trio” featuring Dyer and Naidoo and Fransman (Friday 8 July).
“This series is a natural progression of what we’ve been doing at Silent Revolution anyway,” says Lee Thomson, best known for his trumpet work as a jazz-man as well as with acts like The Springbok Nude Girls and Hog Hoggidy Hog, but also very busy offstage as a promoter, concert organiser and band manager. “We’ve done smaller gigs and we did the ‘Headset Sessions’ (a superb run of gigs at the now defunct Armchair Theatre that showcased local jazz skill under the moniker ‘Open ears, please’). The Winter Jazz Series just talks about the very fact that we really need an intimate jazz venue in Cape Town – a proper listening space for acoustic jazz and art music. This is a step towards creating that kind of culture and our plans go beyond that – we want this to be the first of many and, if it all goes well, would like to have a monthly concert with an international-calibre artist being showcased in Cape Town in the right environment and under the right conditions.”
I ask the trumpeter why he thinks Cape Town has produced the last four years of Standard Bank Young Artist winners in the jazz category – as well as past winners like multi-instrumentalist Shannon Mowday – especially given the tough time such musicians face in terms of weekly performance opportunities – and Thomson says quickly, “Why they come from Cape Town, I don’t know. There are amazing young artists coming out of Durban and Joburg and the Eastern Cape and, you could look at it that Kesivan and Bokani are not originally from Cape Town, but they have chosen to base themselves here and to nurture their talent here. Having worked extensively with Kesivan and Mark, and knowing Melanie and Bokani very well, I know that these are real artists. They’re not just chasing cash, but are putting their art first, doing a lot of studying, a lot of playing, a lot of practicing and a lot of writing. Maybe that is more possible to do in Cape Town? The opportunity to nurture acoustic, creative, listening music…. The fact of the matter, though, is that they are more appreciated and get better gigs outside of Cape Town. I don’t know why that is either, but it’s great to have them playing in Cape Town for this series. We don’t get to see them in a proper concert environment in Cape Town – especially putting them all into one band.”
The Silent Revolution Winter Jazz Series was made possible by support from Pro Helvetia, the British Council, Eastern Cape Jazz Promotions, Kawai Pianos and Eastern Acoustics. It features international artists Soweto Kinch (USA), Frederik Norén (Sweden) and Andreas Schaerer & Bänz Oester (Switzerland); Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year Jazz Award winners Bokani Dyer (2011), Melanie Scholtz (2010), Kesivan Naidoo (2009) and Mark Fransman (2008), and Cape Town jazz stars Emily Bruce, Gavin Minter, Tina Schouw, Buddy Wells, Dave Ledbetter, Lee Thomson and more. It runs from Thursday 7 to Saturday 9 July at The Fugard Theatre Studio (c/o Caledon & Buitenkant Sts, District 6; only 120 tickets per night at R120 each for the night’s two performances; bookings Computicket.com and 021-4614554; doors 7pm; music 7.30pm). More on SilentRevolutionMusic.com and TheFugard.com
This column originally appeared in the Cape Argus ‘Tonight; section on 25 – 26 June 2011. Find out more on Tonight.co.za.