‘Cape Doctor’ Robbie Jansen blows no more

2010-07-10 00:00

CAPE jazz legend and respected musical activist Robbie Jansen, who was affectionately known as the “Cape Doctor” (after the famous Cape south-easterly wind), died in Cape Town on Wednesday at the Netcare Hospital in Kuilsriver. The cause was respiratory complications due to emphysema.

His funeral is set to take place at the His Peoples church in N1 City, Goodwood, on July 17. The viewing of the body will take place from 9.30 am, and the funeral service, conducted by Pastor Glen Robertson, will start at 10.30 am.

A memorial concert, featuring several artists whom he shared the stage with, will take place on August 7.

Born in 1949, Robert “Robbie” Edward Jansen was considered by many to be the guru of Cape jazz, and was one of a group of musicians who played on the jazz classic Mannenberg with Dollar Brand (now Abdullah Ibrahim) in 1974.

A multi-talented instrumentalist and a gifted singer with a warm gravelly timbre to his voice and an equally burnished tone on his alto saxophone, Jansen’s influence on South African and African music was legendary. Scores of musicians, especially young aspiring saxophonists, were influenced by his signature tone and jazz-inflected voicing.

He was involved in a number of Cape Town bands, most notably the Rockets, Pacific Express, Oes Wietie, Spirits Rejoice and Sons of Table Mountain, but for the last five years had concentrated on his solo career.

His last performance was in the Cape Jazz Spectacular at the Standard Bank Jazz Festival in Grahamstown on June 22. In his tribute, Standard Bank Jazz Festival director Alan Webster said: “I first heard Robbie Jansen playing in Grahamstown in 1989 with Basil Coetzee and Sabenza, and it was a thrill to have him back in Grahamstown in 2010. I couldn’t believe the energy of his performance, despite his physical constraints ... It was a privilege to have him at this year’s festival.”

Tributes were also paid by the ANC, the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union and the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu), who said the jazz saxophonist had used his music to heal the divisions promoted by apartheid.

“He took a stand for justice, and his music and his voice spoke for the ideals of justice and peace,” Cosatu said in a statement.

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