JazzEye by Gisele: The 28th Jazz Jol – Superlative!

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The annual ‘Jazz Jol’ at UKZN’s busy Centre for Jazz and Popular Music is an event that covers a whole lot of ground. It marks the end of another year of musical tuition as students move through their courses;  it celebrates a year of fabulous weekly jazz events which feature musicians from all over the world in addition to our top local musos; and,  it is a fundraiser for the Ronnie Madonsela Fund, which supports students who require financial assistance for their tertiary tuition in the field of music. Some of the country’s finest and most talented jazz musicians have benefitted from this fund – a validation of the importance of contributing to the development of our jazz scene at grassroots level

Uncharacteristically, this year’s ‘Jazz Jol’ was held on a Wednesday rather than the big  Saturday night bash. In a word, the concert was ‘superlative’! The students (and some graduates) owned the night and gave their tutors every right to grin from ear to ear as they witnessed the fruits of hard work, talent and expert training come together in a quality sound that had the roomful of die-hard patrons gasping with admiration.

The evening was short and sweet; this too was a break away from the previously over- packed programme... AND every single item was outstanding: a varied collection of work including a few standards and plenty of original compositions - this in itself is an indication of the level of creativity nurtured by the tutors. This year the ‘Jol’ featured student ensemble Nyimbo ya Bantu, the recently launched UKZN Big Band, the UKZN Trebles - a vocal group featuring UKZN Voice students, as well as a selection of students who have featured in the Centre’s showcases throughout the year.

The opening ensemble, under Burton Naidoo’s tuition, acquitted them very well, setting the mood for what was to come. Two of Demi Ferandez’ guitar students played a couple of first class duos: a demonstration of vitality and harmony, complex chords, agile fingers and intriguing techniques.  Debbie Mari presented her a capella vocal group The UKZN Trebles who knocked the socks off the patrons with classic renditions of two of the most aired songs in the South African song book, namely ‘Pata Pata’ and ‘The Click Song’. Going back to the core and heart of the music, without any hype or embellishments or, indeed, patronisation, the UKZN Trebles cracked it, leaving us all wanting more.

It is traditional for the Big Band to take to the stand at the ‘Jazz Jol’; this being a happy conglomerate of students, graduates and sometimes tutors, enjoying variable success. However, the 2016 UKZN Big Band under the baton of the extraordinary musical Burton Naidoo, turned out a set that was top class. The choice of material included standards such as ‘Moten Swing’ by Buster Morten and two songs by living legend Ndikho Xaba, expertly arranged by John Kordalewski, gave the members opportunities to shine both as a group and in solo. Swinging, tight, hot and super cool, this was a memorable highlight of the 2016 ‘Jazz Jol’.

The ‘ Jol’ closed with the group Nyimbo ya Bantu, meaning ‘the people's song’ featuring Tseleng Mokhatla on flute, Ildo Nandja on double/electric bass and vocals, Nic Pitman on guitar, Zibusiso Makhathini on piano and Riley Giandhari on drums. This brilliant ensemble offered a set of original tunes, interesting blends of concepts and musical motifs that translated into really gutsy jazz.

While the ‘Jazz Jol’ did not draw a big crowd this year, it certainly gave those who attended more than their money’s worth and finished a fantastic year of live music with a suitable flourish. 

In 2017 'JazzEye with Gisele' will feature 'live' interviews on ArtsRadioSA - under the banner of GoingPlacesSA, in a regular Tuesday evening segment entitled GoingJazz which will air from mid-January 7pm - 8pm. In addition to the interview, our guest will be requested to provide his selection of music for the hour - similar to the format of Desert Island Date - a popular slot which was introduced by BBC 4 in the 1940s and SABC Radio in the 1960s.

If you miss the slot, 'JazzEye with Gisele' - the interview with the week's guest will be available as a podcast, but unfortunately not the music! Keep an eye on GoingPlacesSA for the anouncement of the date of the first GoingJazz broadcast. At present ArtsRadioSA - designed solely to promote the arts in South and Southern Africa, is playing music from musicals and movies interspersed with hits from the 80s and 90s 24/7, 2017 sees the introduction of the podcasts!


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