/ 3 May 2024

Get your stylish footwear to these Cape Town International Jazz Festival picks

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Jazz community: Bokani Dyer will entertain at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival with tracks from his album Radio Sechaba

“If Judith Sephuma is not in the line-up, is a jazz festival even a jazz festival?” a colleague quipped the other day. 

Less kind jazzbos will wonder if she is even jazz, as with her one-time collaborator, the master of elevator jazz and much-maligned Kenny G. 

His smooth instrumental music has made him massively popular over the past four decades, but as The Guardian wrote, “critical reactions have toggled between a yawn and a sneer”.

Sephuma is similarly popular with the public, and is probably equally absent in the record collections of chin-stroking jazz aficionados. It feels as if Sephuma has been at every iteration of the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, which started in 2000 (it was known as the North Jazz Festival until 2005). 

And, drawcard that she is, Sephuma will be at the city’s convention centre this weekend — Friday evening prime time on the Kippies stage, to be precise. And it will be packed, without a doubt.

The wonderful thing about the inclusive festival is how wide a brim its umbrella has, how broad a church this jazz congregation is.

Here are my 10 picks of the festival. I hope their shows won’t overlap but I will be heeding the tip that festivalgoers put their “best foot forward in comfortable stylish footwear” and running from one gig to the next.

Bokani Dyer’s Radio Sechaba (Saturday, Moses Molelekwa Stage): All round nice guy and intelligent musician, Dyer has brilliantly managed to translate his album Radio Sechaba to the stage.

Thandi Ntuli (Saturday, Rosie’s Stage): This will be the first opportunity to see my favourite album of 2023, Rainbow Revisited, interpreted in concert. (See page 47.) Cannot wait!

Carlo Mombelli (Friday, Rosie’s Stage): Bassist, composer and Wits academic Mombelli has been restlessly keeping the adventurous spirit alive — in concert too.

Kokoroko (Friday, Basil “Manenberg” Coetzee Stage): With this English band’s joyous blend of jazz and Afrobeat, their show will be where the jol is.

Kujenga (Friday, Moses Molelekwa Stage): This seven-piece is my favourite new South African jazz band. Tight, cerebral, yet funky, they sizzle on stage.

Mandisi Dyantyis (Saturday, Kippies Stage): Afro-soul-jazz South African trumpeter, and composer, with a gorgeous voice. Oh, and a style icon too.

The Yussef Dayes Experience (Saturday, Moses Molelekwa Stage): Many respected critics rated English drummer Dayes’s 2023 album Black Classical Music one of their best of the year. Apparently, he’s no slouch on stage either.

Hilton Schilder Quintet (Friday, Rosie’s Stage): My favourite Goema-jazz championing toppie has a brand-new band of laaitjies. He is very excited about the show, which is a very good sign. (See page 45.)

MonoNeon (Saturday, Moses Molelekwa Stage): Flea, of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, has described him as “the greatest fucking electric bass player”. Mono was one of the last people to work with Prince and his experimental approach has seen him compared to composer John Cage. Where do I queue for his show?

Moonchild (Saturday, Kippies Stage): Not to be confused with the blue-haired South African disco queen, this jazzy, funky, alt-R&B, neo-soul American band won my heart with their NPR Tiny Desk concert. Come for a listen and a chill.