From September 12-14, “The South African Songbook: Celebrating 25 Years of Democracy” proudly continues at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola (60th Street and Broadway) with special South African guest pianists; the established composer Hilton Schilder and the young gun Bakari Dyer. Both are composers and bandleaders in Johannesburg. Dyer will be leading a diverse trio featuring the distinct fresh sounds of native Ohio drummer Jerome Jennings (a first call drummer for Paula West to Christian McBride); and young talented Cape Town bassist Benjamin Jephta, who just completed a program at Berkley School of Music, winner of the Standard Bank Young Artists Award, and a young man who has already has released two CDs. He recently found residence in Harlem. Schilder will also lead a trio (names of members weren’t available as of this writing).
There will be two sets each night at 7:30 pm and 9:30 pm. For reservations visit the website jazz.org.
This cultural music connection “The South African Songbook” on September 12-14 featuring the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis at Rose Hall represents a cross-pollination of American and South African music. The extended version of these concerts serve as an exchange program that allowed these musicians to travel here to share their music and concepts not only with audiences but also with young students during a series of workshops that will be presented. “It is important that we connect with South Africa and the freedom of our brothers and sisters,” stated Marsalis, artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center. “We must also recognize the struggle for human rights around the world.” Marsalis and members of the orchestra have 14-16 new arrangements of some of South Africa’s greatest compositions of the past 25 years, as their contribution to this year’s celebration of democracy in South Africa, as well as compositions by Duke Ellington.
Under the same banner the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Marsalis will be part of the Joy of Jazz Festival (September 26-28, Stanton Convention Center) through a residency of performances and education events in Johannesburg. During their visit Marsalis pointed out they will present workshops at Witts University [one of South Africa’s most prestigious universities] and a lot of informal educating, as well as stuff not scheduled. “This music connects people from another place,” noted Marsalis. “It is important for us to identify the music in modern times.”
During the Joy of Jazz Festival there will be a special moment when JALCO will share the stage with Marcus Wyatt with ZAR Jazz Orchestra. “American and South African music was a strong force and it’s great to see our music is being celebrated in the States,” noted trumpeter, arranger and bandleader Wyatt. “It feels like a new connection is strengthening our two countries musically. It is going to be an honor to share the stage with Wynton I admire his dedication to the music and the American art form. I see him as a protector of the genre.”
Wyatt says ZAR will present a few great composers like Zim Ngquawana, Bheki Mseleku and Jonas Gwangwa from the “South African Songbook.” “We will offer Cape Town music which is somewhat similar to New Orleans Street along with South and West African rhythms and grooves, and we will be utilizing our vocalist Mihi Matshingana plus we like to swing too,” said Wyatt during a what’s app interview.
Wyatt started ZAR in 2015, it was a 17-18-piece big band with three trumpets plus Wyatt. “We are trying to uphold the South African music tradition,” said Wyatt. “We used to have a tradition of big bands in Johannesburg—it died down in the last 20 years but they are becoming relatively new again. There is nothing like a big band’s colors and timbres.”
The Sankofa sextet another gem will be debuting at Joy. The bandleader’s name may spark “oh yeahs, and wow” saxophonist, composer, and educator Salim Washington, who earned quite a reputation as an in-depth resonating musician at Harlem’s St. Nick’s Pub. He has lived in Durban, S.A. since 2012 and started Sankofa in 2017.
Since first arriving in South Africa, Washington says he was influenced by other genres of music and “I have played other genres as well including R&B, gospel, salsa, cumbia, Western Art Music,” said Washington. “I am now allowing the various musics and cultures of South Africa to inform my music, including rural Zulu traditions, and Mbqanga. The music of South Africa is very hip and interesting with a robust jazz culture and many good players with a wide variety of styles and influences. One of the things that surprised me is the stream of experimental music with artists, young and old trying to stretch the boundaries of the music.”
Upon his arrival in South Africa Washington was impressed by such musicians as Winston Mankunku Ngozi, the great tenor saxophonist, bassist Philani Ngidi, and the pianist/composer/arranger Afrika Mkhize.
Listeners instantly hear the young trumpeter and composer Mandla Mlangeni’s definitive sound that permeates his horn whether he’s playing blues, avant garde or rock fusion. For this festival the composer will be playing in two ensembles: the prestigious Standard Bank Young Artist All Star Jazz Band and leading his own band the Amandla Freedom Ensemble with them he released his debut CD Bhekisizwe (independently in 2015). Mlangeni used 11 of his original compositions, which was a great decision. His originals expand the music in colorful hues deep in the straight-ahead jazz tradition to blues and beyond. “Many of us have thrived as a result of the ‘Young Artist Award,’” stated Mlangeni. “We are using this as a leverage to elevate the music to new audiences.” For more information visit the website www.joyofjazz.co.za.
Howard Johnson one of the finest proponent of jazz tuba, as well as being quite proficient on baritone saxophone, bass clarinet, and penny whistle will be honored in a special “Tribute Concert to Howard Johnson” on Sept. 18, at Merkin Hall (129 West 67th Street), 7:30 p.m.
Performing artists will include; the multiinstrumentalist and blues singer Taj Mahal, Gravity, the Levon Helm Horns, the Beartones and Students of InterSchool Orchestras of New York.
Johnson taught himself the baritone sax in 1954 and the tuba a year later. He moved to New York in 1963—at a time when the tuba was not a fashionable jazz instrument (outside of the New Orleans-style bass-line chores). In 1965 he played with the Archie Shepp band for some months and appeared with him at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1966 and 1968. Gil Evans used his multi-instrumental capacity at various points between 1966 and 1988.
For more information and tickets call 212-501-3330.