ARTISTS 2017 (PG2)
(First Artists Announced) (Second Artists Announced)
First Artists Announced
LAURA MVULA (UK)
Innovative British singer songwriter and two time Mercury Prize nominee and two time MOBO award winner, Laura Mvula grew up in Birmingham. Mvula first sang in church and later with all female acapella group Black Voices. By 2008 she had formed and was composing for her own jazz/neo-soul outfit Judyshouse. Mvula has also directed various choirs. She is a graduate of the Birmingham Conservatoire and holds a degree in composition.
Her debut album, Sing to the Moon was released in 2013 and garnered multiple award nominations and critical acclaim. Discussing her follow-up, 2016 album The Dreaming Room, the UK Guardian described how Mvula “pulls the listener along with her through the most serpentine songs: however, winding their routes, the melodies are almost always beautiful; however much the musical scenery shifts, it is always striking.”
Mvula’s songs explore identity, personal dilemmas and social issues. About her hit, Phenomenal Woman, inspired by Maya Angelou (and with a video shot in the Bo-Kaap: ), she told the UK Independent: “I try and depend a lot on the women that I surround myself with, the women that through their own vulnerability and ridiculous strength are still moving mountains and doing extraordinary things every day.”
MANU DIBANGO AND MOREIRA CHONGUICA (CAMEROON/ MOZAMBIQUE)
Cameroon and Mozambique meet when two unique African reedmen come together on the CTIJF stage. Veteran Paris-based, Douala-born Manu Dibango, the Grammy-nominated ‘Lion of Africa’, plays saxophone and vibraphone, composes and has led multiple world-acclaimed big bands since 1968. Destined to study medicine in Paris, he instead gravitated towards the music scene, jamming with European and American players and Congolese soukous players. His 1972 hit single Soul Makossa was not only one of the first crossover Afro jazz hits, but also the first to make it on to the New York disco scene, as well as spawning a host of homages and imitations. More than 50 albums have followed, most recently the 2013 Ballade en Saxo. A UNESCO Artist for Peace, Dibango has headed the Cameroun Music Corporation and was named the Special Representative of Francophonie at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Allmusic.com calls him “one of the great innovators of world music” and although he celebrated his 80th birthday with a giant concert in Paris in 2014, he’s still creating fresh concepts. He is, after all, the very first musician to have asserted: “There is an Electric Africa!”
Dibango loves to work with younger players, and in Moreira Chonguiça he may have found a match made in heaven. Matola-born, South African-resident Moreira is not only a SAMA-winning reedman but also a composer, producer, music educator and ethnomusicologist who graduated from UCT in 2000. Jazz runs in his veins – not only was it the music his family played, but he’s related to the late Lucky Michaels, who pioneered jazz clubs in Soweto, founding The Pelican in the 1970s. He himself started music early, gave it up for football, and then picked up an instrument again in his mid-teens, certain he’d found his direction. Moreira has two albums as leader to his credit (The Moreira Project Vol I The Journey and Vol II World Citizen) and his eponymous band has featured at all South Africa’s major festivals. Website Allaboutjazz gave his debut 4.5 stars out of 5 and commented that when “groove is melded with a variety of cultural influences, competent musicianship on every instrument and a sense of adventure, you've got something special—like The Journey, an hour and 18 minutes of musical diversity.” When he spoke to photographer Antonia Heil, Moreira underlined his adventurous musical identity: “I play many styles from places such as, Mozambique, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Congo. It’s a mixture of different genres with a bit of hip hop, funk, and contemporary. Being an artist is a profession of danger - the connection with my ancestors is what inspires me.”
RUDRESH MAHANTHAPPA BIRD CALLS (USA)
Reedman Rudresh Mahanthappa has rarely been absent from the jazz polls since 2003; among others, he was the 2011 Downbeat Critics Alto Saxophonist of the Year as well as the Jazz Journalists’ Association Alto Saxophonist of the Year in three successive years (2009 -2011). He has also been the recipient of multiple Rockefeller grants and a Guggenheim research fellowship. Music writer Victor L. Schermer has described him as: “one of a special class of players who have led jazz into the New Millennium, rooted firmly in tradition, while finding new directions and possibilities in a new era...” But it was his 2015 album in homage to Charlie Parker, Bird Calls, that scored the trifecta at the Downbeat Critics poll: Album of the Year, Alto Saxophonist of the Year and Rising Composer of the Year. Bird Calls features trumpeter Adam O’Farrill, bassist Francois Moutin, pianist Matt Mitchell and drummer Rudy Royston. Indian-American Mahanthappa is a graduate of Berklee and Chicago’s DePaul University who moved to New York in 1998 and began collaborations with pianist Vijay Iyer. Since then, he has released 14 albums as leader and close to 20 as a sideman, in the company of musicians as diverse as pianist Danilo Perez, drummer Jack de Johnette and Indian Carnatic saxophonist Kadri Gopalnath. While challenging and redefining the terms of the music he plays are important to Mahanthappa, so is reaching out to listeners. He told Allaboutjazz: “My favorite moments when I'm playing music are when I feel that the audience and the band are one. I'm not playing for you; you're not listening to me. We're in this together. When that clicks, that's the most spiritual moment of playing music for me.”
SIYA MAKUZENI (SA)
Trombonist, vocalist, composer and bandleader Siya Makuzeni is the 2016 Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year for Jazz and won the Mbokodo Award for Women in Jazz in 2013. She has featured at major South African festivals and has also performed in Italy, India, and Kenya, as well as performing and composing for TV drama The Road. Born into a musical family (her mother was a choral organiser, her father a dedicated jazz record collector) she worked her way up through the various national youth jazz ensembles, recording with the National Youth Jazz Band in 2001. But her musical education stretched far broader, including two years paying her dues with the East Cape Jazz Band while she was still at school. There, she met many players with whom she was later to collaborate, including trumpeter Marcus Wyatt and pianist Andile Yenana. Since then, her career has flowered, including long-time musical partnerships with Carlo Mombelli and Wyatt, leading her own crossover outfit IppyFuze and, currently, leading a jazz sextet – which often features the 2017 jazz young artist, bassist Benjamin Jephta – that presents her original compositions. Other sextet members include pianist Thandi Ntuli, reedman Sisonke Xonti, trumpeter Sakhile Simani and drummer Ayanda Sikade. City Press critic Lloyd Gedye said of her singing: “Siya Makuzeni has one of those voices. When you hear it, everything stops. All of a sudden, there is magic in the world again.” But for Makuzeni, it’s the trombone that remains her “best friend”, even in formats where she chooses to employ voice and electronic loops: “it’s a beautiful instrument…that has taken me on a lot of explorations.” Makuzeni told the Financial Mail she’s “interested in malleable sounds…an atmosphere or headspace that can take the audience into how I perceive jazz.”
SEKUNJALO EDUJAZZ BAND (SA)
Over the past fifteen years, the Sekunjalo Development Foundation has hosted an annual Sekunjalo Edujazz Concert where young music students share a stage with established jazz artists from Cape Town. Current programme co-cordinator Donovan Witten shared his original vision with Dr Iqbal Survé, and together they established the Sekunjalo Edujazz Project in 2001 to promote development of jazz music in township schools on the Cape Flats. The annual serves as a platform for aspiring, young musicians from all Cape Town’s communities and featured bands over the years have included The Little Giants, the Belhar Music Collective, the Athlone Music Academy, the Alexander Sinton High Jazz Band, the Heathfield High Jazz Band, the Zerilda Park Primary Band, the Muizenberg High Jazz Band, Delft Jazz Band, the UWC Wind Orchestra and the Ifidyoli String Ensemble. Established musicians including the likes of Tucan Tucan, Virtual Jazz Reality, Jimmy Nevis, MiCasa, Beatenberg and The Darryl Andrews Jazz Band have shared the stages, and individuals such as Alvyn Dyers, Andre Petersen, Ivan Bell, Camillo Lombard, Amanda Tiffin, George Werner, Sammy Weber and Shannon Mowday have mentored. Workshops run by educators including Frank Paco, Ronel Nagfal, Henriette Weber and Terence Scarr have helped to hone skills. The work bore fruit in a roster of current stars and rising stars, including Kyle Shepherd, Darren English, Claude Cozens, Dylan Tabisher, Leanne Fortuin, Don Vino Prins, Lana Crowster, Jamie Faull and S’pha Mdlalose.
For 2017, the band will be under the direction of Andrew Ford, an international award-winner recognised by the Cannes Lions, the London International Advertising Awards, the New York Festivals and South Africa’s Loeries. Ford’s arranging skills are constantly in demand by large ensembles – including the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra.
Skyjack is an award-winning collaborative band of five jazz musicians from South Africa and Switzerland who work together whenever cross-continental trips are possible. Their interplay creates a wide palette of sound drawing from multiple cultural influences, concentrated into a modern jazz aesthetic. The three South Africans are well known to local audiences. Port Elizabeth-born bassist Shane Cooper was Standard Bank Young Artist for jazz in 2013 and won the 2014 SAMA for Best Jazz Album for his debut as leader, Oscillations. Pianist Kyle Shepherd was 2014 Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz and winner of the Unisa National Piano Award in 2015. His trio album (also including Cooper) Dream State, was nominated for both SAMA and a Metro Music Awards, and he has just released his original soundtrack album for South Africa’s 2017 Oscar entry, Noem my Skollie. New York-based drummer Kesivan Naidoo was Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz in 2009, and is a SAMRO overseas scholarship winner. Naidoo has said of the music of the new South African generation: “The rest of the world is looking to my generation for that new sound… We have a responsibility to forge that new sound of freedom.” The three South Africans are highly respected artists who have toured widely and worked with the most in-demand jazz names at home and abroad. These include their current Swiss collaborators in this formation: tenor saxophonist Marc Stucki and trombonist Andreas Tschopp. Skyjack first worked together on a South African tour in 2013 where they played among others at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. In 2015 they reunited for a tour across Switzerland, where they entered and won the prestigious Swiss BeJazz TransNational competition. They recorded their debut album at the legendary Powerplay Studios near Zurich. As winners of the competition, they returned to Switzerland in January 2016 to perform at the BeJazz Winterfestival in Berne. In September Skyjack launched the CD with a 12-gig, 12-day tour. Music writer Gwen Ansell described it as “a delight: by turns intense and thoughtful, and gently impressionistic, but always true to its heart".
SOWETO STRING QUARTET (SA)
The Soweto String Quartet was founded in 1989 by violinists Sandile Khemese and Thami Khemese and their brother, the late cellist Reuben Khemese. Childhood friend and viola player Makhosini Mnguni joined them. The SSQ’s existence at that time was an assertion of a rich township classical music tradition denied by apartheid; later, it helped to redefine the image of classical music for the new generation. The Khemese brothers – children of a conductor father and a choralist mother – had attended their uncle Michael Masote’s Madimba School of Music in the township. Sandile and Reuben played with the Soweto Symphony Orchestra until Sandile left to study at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, UK. In the years that followed the group’s foundation, they increasingly spiced their standard classical repertoire with fresh tunes and instrumentation reflecting their African heritage. They played at the inauguration of South Africa’s first post-liberation President, the late Rohilahla Nelson Mandela, and released their first album, Zebra Crossing, in 1998. Since then, they have toured worldwide, released eight further albums, and collaborated with artists as varied as Jimmy Dludlu, HHP, Manu Dibango and the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Jazz Times described their work on their debut as “bringing a freshness and zeal” to the medium of crossover classical playing. The SSQ told documentary-maker Kevin Harris “There is this misunderstanding that Soweto is rough. That is not true. Soweto is a very profound place…it enriches you musically.”
TAYLOR MCFERRIN AND MARCUS GILMORE (USA)
DJ, producer, singer-songwriter, keyboardist and beatboxer Taylor McFerrin cut his performing teeth early, appearing in his teens as a backing vocalist for his father, legendary improvising vocalist/composer/conductor Bobby McFerrin. Vocalese runs in the family. But Taylor’s interest has always been in music with a base in technology, through high school in Minnesota and college in New York in the late 1990s, and even before the role of DJ/producer was acknowledged as a valid musical career. He taught himself to play keyboards, and released an EP, Broken Vibes, in 2007. Broken Vibes received heavy rotation from DJs including Gilles Peterson, and McFerrin’s subsequent remix work included Corinne Bailey Rae and album tracks for Jose James. An Early Riser EP followed in 2010, with plans for a full album. But it was when he started exploring his material live with drummer Marcus Gilmore and bassist Jason Fraticelli – revisioning the planned Early Riser tracks as fresh blends of jazz and soul inspirations with edgy hip hop credentials – that the Early Riser album finally came together to be released in 2014. Gilmore featured regularly as part of pianist Vijay Iyer’s award-winning trio, and has been a Downbeat Rising Star. Jazz writer Ben Ratliff described his phrasing as possessing “a rolling swing and grace”. Gilmore has worked with artists including Cassandra Wilson and Chick Corea and is the grandson of drum legend Roy Haynes. “Most people think of rhythm as secondary to melody or harmony,” Gilmore told NPR. “But I feel …they are all at the very least paramount in developing one’s musical ability…the most recent innovations in music have their foundation in rhythm.” PopMatters hailed Early Riser as “an album full of subtle surprises”, with guests including Thundercat and Robert Glasper. McFerrin has toured worldwide as a one-man show, playing major festivals such as Glastonbury and venues such as The Apollo, the Blue Note and the Lincoln Jazz Centre. The challenges of creating a fresh soundscape alone, working chemistry and magic with slices of his live takes, move him into new realms of originality. He told Spin Magazine: “The biggest positive to being self-taught is that from the beginning I developed my own sound. The negative is that there is a lot of theory, technique, and basic songwriting classes I wish I'd taken. I feel what makes it work for me is that I came up learning production techniques based around how to piece everything together. That's my main skill.”
THE RUDIMENTALS (SA)
South African Top 20 stars The Rudimentals started out as one of the few South African bands exploring ska music, back in 2001. Since then, they’ve broadened their sound palette to include African, reggae, ragga, rock and dancehall music, regularly featuring emcees from Zimbabwe, Jamaica and New York and intermittently pulling impressive surprise guests out of the bag. At the core of their infectious, assertive sound are the horns of Simon Bates (saxophone), Ross McDonald (trombone) & Jody Engelbrecht (trumpet), with Nikolai Athiros on keys, guitarist Doc Mike Levy, drummer Giovanni Cerci, bassist Errol ‘Bong’ Strachan, and firecracker vocals from Teboho “Teboes”, Cotterell ‘Khaos’ Jop, Whoosain, and Lloyd “King Labash” Charles. The Rudimentals’ track Soundboy Killa has hit No 1 in the charts, staying in the Top 20 for 15 weeks. Among other tracks, Bubbling hit No 2 and their most recent single, We are One, spent five weeks in the Top 10. The title track has also been translated into IsiZulu and used as soundtrack music for the SABC-1 drama series Tempy Pushas. The band has featured at major South African festivals, shared stages with acts including the late Lucky Dube, Johnny Clegg, HHP and Freshlyground, and featured in the documentary Punk in Africa. Impatient of any genre label these days, the band told interviewer Nick Darke: “It’s the music that matters.”
TUNE RECREATION COMMITTEE – TRC (SA)
TRC is one of several formations (also including the Amandla Freedom Ensemble) helmed by trumpeter Mandla Mlangeni. Co-founded and led with guitarist Keenan Ahrends, Tune Recreation Committee has long held a presence on the Cape Town music scene since its formation in 2007 by a group of college friends. For this outing it features Mlangeni and Ahrends, plus Nicholas Williams on bass and Claude Cozens on drums. SAMA-nominated (for the Amandla Freedom Ensemble’s 2015 Bhekisizwe) UCT graduate Mlangeni plays, composes and curates music events across a range of musical styles. He was a recipient of the 2016 Berne (Switzerland) Artist in Residence, has toured internationally with the Cape Town Opera’s production of Porgy and Bess and worked with the same company’s 2016 production of Oratorio for A Forgotten Youth. The other members are equally in-demand and widely accomplished players who have toured extensively in South Africa and abroad, and received critical acclaim for the other outfits they lead. The TRC is an ever-changing and adaptable ensemble committed to building a musical bridge between the past, present and future. In its inaugural outing at the Cape Town Jazz Festival it will also feature a special guest appearance by critically acclaimed multi-instrumentalist Mark Fransman on accordion, tenor saxophone and bass clarinet. Fransman is a double SAMA award-winner, a former Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz and winner of the FNB Vita Award, the Johnnie Walker Musician of the Year Award and the UCT Adcock Ingram Jazz Award. TRC takes original tunes and reinvents them, offering nods to their influences and embracing everything from the vibrant underground music scene of drum and bass to Balkanology. Fusing imported sounds and exporting their own flavours, either going into a Ghoema -tinged feel or just improvising around the melody, TRC is a playground for the interrogation and assimilation of an extended extemporisation from the canon of South African jazz. Says Mlangeni: “More than ever now there’s a need to understand ourselves and our history, and advance our stories and songs, in the face of a continuous onslaught of ‘culture from elsewhere is better; we’re not worthy enough’…But we need to do that with work that interrogates how we handle musical colours, harmonies, improvisation, not with performances that are predictable and formulaic.”
VuDu is a nu-jazz collective from Port Elizabeth and winner of the 2016 esp Young Legends talent search. The band was formed to play straight-ahead jazz standards in the lobby of the Radison Blu Hotel in 2009. The founding members were bassist Alec Mackay, who recruited Virgil Matrass (keys), Sisanda “Sunda” Myataza (vocals) and Kristo Zondagh (drums). From those foundations, it has evolved into an outfit specialising in the fusion of traditional and African jazz with urban contemporary genres. Members soon started writing original material and recorded their first neo-soul single, Why. Their first EP, The Birth of a New Sound, followed, expanding their sound towards more experimental territory. Personnel changed, with new keyboardist Wesley Keet and bass player Grant Allison coming on board. In this fresh incarnation, VuDu released a second EP, Better Late than Never, in December 2013. After this, the band took a break to pursue individual music ambitions. Sunda travelled to Bristol, UK to tour for 6 months and record her debut solo EP. Wesley toured Taiwan twice. Kristo moved to Joburg where he became an in-demand session man, while Grant has worked in other collaborations while completing his Honours degree in music. But the members never lost contact and during this ostensible break, at Sunda’s suggestion, they entered the espYoungLegends contest. The rest, as they say, is history.