September 1, 2010 – There could not have been a more perfect opening. Auriol Hays gave the crowd a tit bit of feisty emotion in her performance, Brian Temba followed up with a little load of love even when it hurts and Rahsaan Patterson worked it to the end with more than half the amount of spunk that the artist formerly known as Prince can muster in his little body.
That, ladies and gentlemen, was the beginning of three days of Joy sponsored by Standard Bank; namely, the 11th edition of the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz.
There is no festival in the title, because according to the founder Peter Tladi, it is more than just a festival.
“It’s about celebration. It is about a love for music. That is how we started this event…the sponsors and the money came later.”
“It was first about getting jazz lovers to come together and celebrate their kind of music. There was a lot of talent that needed to be heard and appreciated,” he added.
And for the past 11 years, that is exactly what Tladi has been doing with an ever expanding profile of artists and visitors.
Hays, Temba and Patterson were first to set right the Dinaledi Stage, the biggest and most expensive of six arenas marked out to bring joy through jazz. Streets around Newtown – where the stages were erected – were either closed off or packed to capacity with cars and people.
Hays was clad in a strapless black number, decorated with a white coat. She belted out the ‘sad husband song’ with the help of the Gauteng Jazz Orchestra and did a piece written by her saxophonist Kaya – Time For Love.
“It’s a beautiful love song written by somebody who has never been in love. If he had ever been in love, he would never have written this song,” she teased.
Not long after, South Africa’s own Brian Temba took up the stage looking all suave and singing about midnight conversations and early mornings. But the crowd wanted more after he removed his jacket.
“It was pretty hot up on stage,” he later told Capital Lifestyle, denying that it was one for the ladies.
After about 45 minutes of his stunning baritone, it was time for Rahsaan Patterson to ‘Come on Over’. His navy blue shirt and dark blue jeans were not important here. The love and joy for jazz were pouring out of every timbre of his voice, which sashayed between soprano and bass with little discomfort and so much pleasure.
In between a really good Steve Urkell imitation and poignant stares at the crowd, Rahsaan, literally brought the house up, making fans dance to songs from the 80s, 90s and today. He almost brought the crowd to tears with his usual rendition of Sade’s Stronger Than Pride.
Jazz lover Ntatheng had been waiting all night for Rahsaan’s performcance and she wasn’t disappointed.
“I love this guy and his music. You simply melt when he sings. This is the best festival ever,” she told Capital Lifestyle.
All he had to say to his adoring fans at the end of the show was … “Thank you. I love y’all!”
Even though the word jazz probably makes you think of scenes conjured up from New Orleans, it could just as easily paint the lives of music lovers in Nairobi and in Soweto.
Case in point? Three boys from the South African township known as “The Soil” were privileged to curtain raise for one of their own, saxophonist Sipho Mabuse on day 2 of the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz.
Dressed in something akin to Big Boi and Andre 2000, the trio beat boxed and acapellad their way to the hearts of the audience. Calling G-O-D the leader of their band, the trio aimed to please and did a good job preparing the second largest stage (Mbira Stage) for Mr Mabuse.
When Sipho arrived on stage he made use of the silence to make love to the air with his saxophone; drawing out each note expertly and lovingly to share his decades of experience with the audience.
Also known as Hotstix, Sipho dazzled with his unending reserves of energy, going from slow and soulful to jumping jazzy and back to sultry as you would a walk in the park.
And speaking of parks, amid rumours of a caged lion in one of the stages, I rushed to find only Anat Cohen at the Bassline Stage. But that’s not to say she wasn’t worthy.
Her clarinet was complimented by vigorous Afro-Cuban percussion, thrilling the audience into silence. Music lovers were watching intently as she pranced up and down the stage in a flowing orange and white top with black pants, in what may well be her hundredth Jazz fest to perform in.
And last but not least on day two was Khethi. She sang in Sophia Town – a sidewalk café where the stage is semi sheltered. Her entire band, including herself, played and sang jazzy reggae tunes.
Clad in green and black, the lovely dread-locked Khethi’s voice came out strongly in the air.
“I love jazz! It has been in this country for decades now. It is nice to see the music festivals grow. I am here to watch as many performances as I can!”says one patron.
Organisers of the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz had a massive turnout of 22,000 people last year, and it doesn’t stop there.
“This year, we have a very impressive line up and are hoping to make the most of it. All the tickets are sold out and we expect more visitors than those who came last year,” according to Peter Tladi, founder of Joy of Jazz.
The lines are longer on the third and last night. All the heavyweights perform tonight, especially Chris Botti and Sadao Watanabe, while Lalah Hathaway will be on tag-team duty with Rahsaan Patterson after going solo for a few tracks, including the all-popular “Let Go”.
Ahead of the performance, she spoke to Standard Bank’s artsy crew telling them that: “I’ve had to let go of quite a few things, quite a few situations and a couple of mindsets. Every so often, I have to remind myself to just let some stuff go – from people and relationships to an old pair of jeans.”
The air is electric. Young and old jazz lovers line up, spoilt for choice.
“South Africa is all about jazz. It has always been in our culture, it just took a while for people to recognise the music as African jazz. I’m here to see everyone, as many people as I can,” Vusi, who accompanied friends to the fest, tells Capital Lifestyle.
“Jazz is like a more posh version of Kwaito,” he says. “But it’s not about class. It’s about a different kind of celebration of music.”
As if to compliment his words, Wanda Baloyi was up next at the Dinaledi stage.
Her performance ran concurrently with Sadao Watanabe on the Mbira Stage and Nhlanhla Nciza at the market theatre.
There is music and conversation in the air when I retire for the evening just before midnight…the joy of jazz.