Best of the jazz fest

Transport, unless you have your own, can be unreliable. The night air is cold. So it is tempting to arrive at the DSG Hall for an afternoon show and then simply stay on, trusting that the obscure Finnish tuba players, or whoever is up next, will be worth hearing.

This year, festival marketing implicitly discourages such open-mindedness by carving jazz into six subgenres: youth, world/gospel, crossover, Afro-jazz, mainstream and modern. As with the South African Music Association Awards and every other attempt to build walls around jazz, it produces silly anomalies. What is crossing over into what? Why does that forward slash marry world and gospel? Can there not be a modern mainstream?

Ignore the labels. Here is the Mail & Guardian’s pick of the gigs from the broad church of jazz — in addition to those highlighted in our feature articles — that are likely to please your ears, intrigue your brain and lift your heart.

Anything ‘Youth’ (until July 2)

The Youth Jazz Festival ensemble concerts are the place to spot future stars, but they also always showcase unusual repertoire — something especially likely with pianist Paul Hanmer and trombonist James ­Bassingthwaite as this year’s ­conductors.

Kyle Shepherd and Jitsvinger (June 29)

Highly individual pianism and composition, take-no-prisoners MC-ing plus a hard-driving jazz rhythm section.

Nicky Schrire (June 29 or July 2)

A vocalist and arranger with a fresh approach, and a young band drawn from Cape Town and the rest of the world via New York.

A.Spell (June 30)

Cape Town multi-instrumentalist Ronan Skillen plus Swiss innovators Nadja Stoller (voice) and Jan Brönnimann (reeds) with new songs.

The Fox and the Horn (June 30)

The former is German modern saxman of the moment, Mro Fox; the latter, South African trumpeter Marcus Wyatt. Kyle Shepherd is in the mix too.

Carine Bonnefoy and the New Large Ensemble (July 1 and 3)

Acclaimed Parisian pianist and composer Carine Bonnefoy and 16 intriguing musicians, ranging from jazz vocalist to classical strings.

Mlungisi Gegana (July 4)

Featuring saxophonist McCoy Mrubata and trumpeter Feya Faku, this bass-led outing showcases the varieties of jazz imagination born in the Cape.

Hassan’adas (July 4 and 5)

Infectious pan-African and Latin beats, aware lyrics and inspired improvisers, including saxman Buddy Wells.

Andy Narell (July 6 and 7)

Narell’s inventive steelpans backed by South African players, including ace guitarist Louis Mhlanga.

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Gwen Ansell
Gwen Ansell is a freelance writer, writing teacher, media consultant and creative industries researcher. She is the author of various books, including the cultural history ‘Soweto Blues: Jazz, Politics and Popular Music in South Africa’ and the writers’ guide, ‘Introduction to Journalism’.
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