Two things flow fairly easily during the Cape Town International Jazz Festival: great music, obviously, and an unwarranted supply of alcohol.
Add to this context a free jazz event, the community concert at Green Market Square, which precedes the Cape Town International Jazz Festival every year and you get a whole lot more of the latter. A free community concert means more money for booze, and so it was that every second person had in one hand a transparent plastic cup of brew.
The music was more of a background accompaniment to the various thirsty souls who flooded the venue's cobbled floor, many dancing drunkenly while others sat on camp-chairs and in nearby restaurants. The music was, for the most part, just okay.
The most anticipated act of the evening was the Brand New Heavies. I can't say they disappointed the crowd, but by the time they went on stage the majority of the audience was already showing signs of fatigue from standing and waiting.
Thankfully the band has funk on their side, which injected some life into the tired feet of the weary crowd. Jimmy Dludlu was entertaining too, save for his closing, which was a rendition of the national anthem. I suspect that was probably the highlight of the evening for many because one can only imagine the sight of a South African with a bit of alcohol in the bloodstream, hearing the national anthem – a poor man's version of Idols quickly unfolds, heart-warming as it is.
I called it quits when the music went from jazz to a bash of house and kwaito. Much of the crowd really felt this part of the community concert, with some doing the bus-stop dance to a song by DJ Cleo. A colleague and I left the Green Market Square walked towards Gardens to catch one more jazz performance at another venue in the city, the Mahogany Room.
The wonderful thing about the Mahogany Room is that it is a smalll, almost dingy jazz club where hard liquor is never too far off. It is a great intimate space for listening to music and thankfully will be venue for some very cool jam sessions and performances for the rest of this week and weekend.
There was only one act scheduled for the evening: Kesivan Naidoo and the Lights featuring the rare talent of pianist Kyle Shepherd. The band played three compositions that I was not well acquainted with but nothing is as good as discovering something as beautiful as those pieces of work.
I was particularly drawn to Shepherd, whom I had the pleasure of talking to before the group took to the small stage. His relaxed but reserved demeanour is constant, even on stage. The mid-air suspension of his hands just before playing his next note drew me in. For that one second it was as if he was thinking of his next move – which he was not, because his fingers managed, sometimes at quite a rapid pace, to find the exact keys that guided the rest of the song. It was beautiful to hear and see.
Wednesday night provided glimpses into what promises to be an amazing festival this year.