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NAF JAZZ (article first published : 2004-06-12)

All aboard! The National Arts Festival jazz express is set to roll every day till late from July 1 to 10 in Grahamstown. The programme wil be supported by giants of the South African jazz landscape and big names from far afield, such as Sweden, the UK, Australia, Norway, Holland and the US.

Both the Standard Bank Festivals - Joy of Jazz and National Youth - as well as three spotlight shows from the Main National Arts Festival programme colonise one big venue, building up a head of steam that will set those pistons racing.

First lady of the 2004 Festival jazz train, Standard Bank Young Artist Award Winner Tutu Puoane is back home from Holland with her own band. Vocalists Natascha Roth (Germany) and Lee Gibson (the UK) complete a trio of awesome female voices.

Piano rides upfront with a special tribute to the late Moses Molelekwa. Pianists Andile Yenana, Andrew Lilley and Mark Fransman do the honours with an all-star backing marking a special Standard Bank posthumous award to the legendary Bra Moses.

In another tribute, the Blue Heads play easy listening jazz composed by the great visual artist Gerard Sekoto during his sojourn in Paris in the 1950s.

Winging in from further north, the renowned Stockholm Jazz Orchestra makes its South African debut. Holland's Groove Troopers slipstream their famous leader, Martin Fondse. The exciting trio, Urban Connection, hits town from Norway, while the Brubeck Brothers reclaim the USA's jazz supremacy. Australian group Mosiac enjoys a vibrant cross-cultural collaboration with Co-opera from the Eastern Cape.

The whole jazz journey is a celebration with old and new jazz alliances driving a play-and-share ethos with the National Arts Festival.

Top brass re-appearing throughout the programme includes saxophonists Dave O'Higgins (UK), Zim Ngqwana, Sidney Mnisi, Frode Nymo (Norway) and Mike Rossi. Saying it with a trumpet are Feya Faku, Marcus Wyatt and co. The string contingent includes Mike Campbell, Carlo Mombelli and Herbie Tsoaeli on bass and guitarists of the ilk of Allou April and James Scholfield.

Keeping the rhythm on track, drummers include Lulu Gontsana, Kevin Gibson and Kesivan Naidoo.

The grandfather of SA jazz, Winston 'Mankunku' Ngozi signalled a brighter future during the dark old days when many of his contemporaries were in exile. Now his mellow sounds groove seamlessly in with the hot passion of young talent.

Youngsters in high school bands from all round the country get the action rolling on day one of the National Arts Festival and on July 5 , the jazz venue is reserved for the Standard Bank's newly selected National Schools' Big Band (under Mike Rossi), National Youth Big Band (under John Davies) and the National Youth Jazz Band (under Carlo Mombelli).

Adult jazz afficionados get to play and sing together in Mike Campbell's Awesome Big Band which promises to stoke the fires in those jazz engine rooms.

The Eastern Cape Government, the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, Standard Bank, the SABC and the National Arts Council sponsor the 2004 National Arts Festival.

Free Booking Kits for the Festival are available at selected Standard Bank branches and Computicket outlets where booking is open nationwide. Bookings can also be made via the website www.nafest.co.za




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