Rooted in Cape Town, pianist Ramon Alexander makes delicate relatable music. His performance at the Standard Bank Jazz Festival on the Virtual National Arts Festival is arguably one of the best examples of his commitment to musical balance and reliability.
It is hard not to think about wine when considering comparisons for Alexander’s chemistry of sound. Apart from him being a trained wine maker, I’ve found a smoothness and gentleness of flow in his playing too. Taking in moments where his music sparkles, is not unlike pausing to taste notes of a well made grape potation.
The creamy tenor saxophone flows languidly through the charts, thanks to Byron Abrahams’ steady blowing. Valentino Europa is like clockwork on the bass. The occasional smiles and nods he throws to Alexander are the only signs of his ability to be distracted by the efforts required to make the beautiful music they are sharing with us.
On drums, Annemie Nel’s body moves as one dancing like a white girl. Each of her limbs seem to have a mind of their own. You wonder if she’ll make time. There’s a disconnect between how you see her body moving and the music she’s making. But this is part of her deceptive charm, because she is easily the best part of the sounds you are hearing. Her high quality drumming is central to what makes this band remarkable. She is focused, energised and deliciously musical. Captivating.
The band’s repertoire is predominantly made up of Alexander’s original compositions. There’s an ode to his musical forebears, titled Dance of our Fathers, a song he says is dedicated to the players in the pantheon of Cape jazz — the likes of Robbie Jansen, Errol Dyers and Winston Mankunku Ngozi. An earlier recorded version of this tune was performed with the Cape Jazz Band.
Notably, they also do an enjoyable treatment of Andile Yenana’s Mhlekazi’s Dance. It is stripped of all but the essential melodic features of the original. Alexander reliably takes ownership of it. You can find Ramon Alexander on the vNAF Jazz Programme here
This article first appeared in The Critter