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JAZZ OASIS AT NAF (article first published : 2005-05-20)

“Even birds that fly the highest have to come down to drink”, says the old Nguni proverb and the Standard Bank Jazz Festival at the National Arts Festival taking place in Grahamstown from June 30 to July 9) is a preferred watering hole for top jazz birds. Offering respite from the wilderness of canned music, it always provides a swinging oasis!

Big band fans get their annual fix as flocks of musos wing in to Grahamstown. The best of South Africa's high school bands, the powerful Stockholm Jazz Orchestra, and the Standard Bank National Youth and Schools Big Bands (to be selected during the fest) get the airwaves tingling. Graham Beyer tunes up the Schools Big Band and Zim Ngqawana will put the under-27 elite though their paces in the Youth Big Band. Cape Town young guns in the group called Gravity, show what becomes of the new talents in the School and Youth Big Bands once they graduate.

Predicted to be an unforgettable Festival 2005 highlight, the Awesome Big Band features a unique, unrepeatable line-up drawn from the musos present. It will include some of the greats of South African Jazz with world class visitors from Sweden, France, Switzerland, Portugal, the USA and Mozambique, conducted by trumpeter Bruce Cassidy. Their programme includes original music written by Cassidy, John Fedchock, Carlo Mombelli and Göran Strandberg ranging in style from Bebop through funk to world music.

Topping the big name concerts is Standard Bank Young Artist award-winner Andile Yenana – the magic piano man who will perform his own material in a celebratory concert and then fall in as part of the group for wind supremo Zim Ngqawana's concert. Andile says that's what jazz means to him: a group effort.

Two popular South African jazz icons, singer Gloria Bosman and guitarist Selaelo Selota will each do two gigs to accommodate the fans.

Heading the international contingent, the great New York trombonist John Fedchock will share his festival debut with trumpeter Marcus Wyatt. The Mats-Up ensemble features seven of Switzerland's hippest jazz musicians who celebrate the multiple influences of Europe's jazz heritage. Duke Ngcukana, a golden name in the history of South African jazz, introduces Swedish sax player Per Johanssen to South African music in a concert while Israeli pianist Micu Narunsky and woodwind magus Mike Rossi explore the soul of the jazz duo.

Two trumpets set up a brassy conversation when Marcus Wyatt shares the stage with Portugal's Hugo Alves. World famous trumpeter Bruce Cassidy and world-class saxophonist Rick van Heerden blow up a storm together. And Mzantsi's leading female sax player Shannon Mowday welcomes two Mozambican musos to her band, Galumphing.

An Eastern Cape squad includes Port Elizabeth's venerable Soul Jazzmen who were instrumental in the early training of Zim Ngqawana, Lulu Gontsana and Feya Faku, among others. East London's Slofoot King Brothers, active since 1953, will also do a special Fest gig. Chora-jazz, the East London choir/band combo, and Port Elizabeth's Errol Cuddumby Quartet will all do their bit for the great Festival jazz makiti.

Free Booking Kits for the Festival are available at selected Standard Bank branches and Computicket outlets. Booking is at Computicket. Further information on 046 603 1103 or visit www.nafest.co.za




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