Review – All thanks to the discovery of jazz

2012-08-26 20:13

The result can only be magical when one convenes top-rank jazz musicians – 15 international and 36 local – to gig for three consecutive nights in one spot.

So it figures that yesterday, on the third night of the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz, Joburg’s Newtown Cultural Precinct, where the annual jamboree takes place, had a bewitched quality about it.

People of all types and hues walked about in a daze, drunk from all the jazz being churned out there. (There were, of course, other mind-bending substances too.)

Shabby car guards who spoke with the fast rhythm of hustlers on the hunt for suckers shared a space with fat-belly businessmen and their trophy chicks in skimpy outfits. There were also the hip types in berets and shiny shoes walking in step with giddy music nerds working their
way out of being squares.

Some had bought tickets but never made it into any music hall to see a performance. Instead, they walked around, stuffed with all sorts of foods sold by enthusiastic vendors, their branded bags full of newly purchased records and some freebees.

All they want to be able to say is: “Yes, I was there too in 2012 and it was cooking.”

A tale of two voices

At the height of festivities, the second night of the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz became a tale of two singers.

At around 11pm on Friday, with grooves gone full throttle into the musical night, jazz vocalists Kurt Elling and Lizz Wright became popular acts on many people’s lips.

Wright and Elling were both raised by fathers who were musical directors in their respective churches. By the time they turned twelve the two were already involved in service every Sunday. Wright played piano as a child, Elling sang in the church choir.

Hymns and blues are the basis of Wright’s repertoire – or at least its texture. Her thick, velvety voice; the tone and timbre of her sound, was beautifully reminiscent of that of gospel singers, even when she was handling love songs. The crowd too kept throwing up hollers and amens like believers do when the sermon is hot.

Wright was cooking!

The fire was kept more than sufficiently alive by Elling and his quartet of able talents. He stood as a vocal instrumentalist, not just a beautiful voice. While he too has spiritual roots, Elling has taken his singing into the straight-ahead jazz tradition.

So at the Denaledi Stage, finger snapping, head-bopping and the occasional whistle replaced slow hand waves and hallelujahs from the congregants.

As the band went through its list of songs, the genre’s pioneers, like Jon Hendricks, Sarah Vaughan and Frank Sinatra became a delightful reference point.

The crowd went berserk for a jazzed-up rendition of Stevie Wonder’s Golden Lady.

The night was a success.

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