Jazz guitarist Johnny Fourie dies in Jo'burg

Jazz guitarist Johnny Fourie (70) was a “rare and dedicated” musician, friends said in a tribute following his death in Johannesburg on Sunday, just months after releasing his debut album, Once upon a Time.

“His family, students and fans will sorely miss him,” they said in a statement.

Born Jan Carel Fourie, his love of jazz was kindled as a teenager and he became a professional session guitarist at Gallo, EMI and Trutone, in Johannesburg, starring on the records of the Manhattan Brothers, Lemmy “Special” Mabaso, Spokes Mashiane and Nico Carstens, as well as the Merry Blackbirds.

He went to Soho, London, in 1961, going on to lead the house band at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club for four years.

Fourie also made his mark on the New York jazz scene, playing with, among others, Charles Erland, Hubert Laws, Billy Cobham and Clive Stevens before returning to South Africa in 1975.

He formed the Johnny Fourie Band in 1979 with his son Sean Fourie on keys, Raymond Boshoff on drums and Chris Bekker on bass. He also performed in Carlo Mombelli’s group The Abstractions.

It was while teaching in the Pretoria Technikon’s jazz department that he formed the Short Attention Span Ensemble, which released its debut album, Fingerprints of the Gods, in 1997.

Fourie’s own album, released in April, comprises mainly jazz standards he loved and gives “a snapshot of his late harmonic style”, with “the sincerity and love palpable in every passage, every note”, said friend and fellow jazz musician Jonathan Crossley.

Funeral details are not yet known.—Sapa

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