Five must-see gigs at Joy of Jazz

2012-08-24 07:06

The 13th yearly Standard Bank Joy of Jazz kicks off tonight in Joburg’s Newtown cultural precinct.

The festival organisers anticipate about 21 000 music lovers to descend on the Mary Fitzgerald Square throughout the weekend.

The bill includes 15 international acts and 36 local artists.

If you are one of these people, you’d do well not to miss some key headline acts:

1. Earl Klugh
Earl Klugh (pronounced “Clue”) is an American smooth jazz/crossover jazz/jazz fusion guitarist and composer. He is this year’s main act at the festival.

Klugh has received 12 Grammy nods, millions of record and CD sales and continues to tour worldwide.

He is classically trained and though he’s mainly respected as a fusion musician, the 59-year-old guitarist has held his own among giants of straight-ahead jazz.

At age 15 Klugh was playing with master reedman Yusef Lateef. Klugh has recorded more than 30 albums including 23 top-10 charting records – five of them No. 1 on Billboard’s Jazz Album chart. He makes his second appearance in Joburg having first played here in 2004.

» He performs on the Dinaledi Stage tomorrow night.

2. Kurt Elling

The Chicago-born crooner is arguably the most important jazz vocalist of his generation.

Elling has been celebrated as a voice instrumentalist.

This means he is a singer who can stand next to any jazz player and deliver with just as much dexterity.

The 45-year-old musician will present a repertoire of tunes from across his 10 albums, plus others lifted from the great jazz standards.

The Grammy award winning singer has promised a special treat in what is his first performance on the African continent.

» He performs on the Dinaledi Stage tonight and at the Bassline tomorrow evening.

3. Maysa Leak
Many South African music fans first caught wind of Maysa during her collaborations with Icognito, the UK-based band led by Jean-Paul ‘Bluey’ Maunick. Together they released super hits like Deep Waters and Out Of The Storm.

However, this American Jazz singer has also built a formidable solo career that has seen her release 10 solo albums of her own and a Soul Train award in 2009.

She’s also toured with Rhythm Logic, Jonathan Butler and Pieces of a Dream. Maysa will be sharing her stage with a South African band, the SA All Stars.

» She performs on the Mbira Stage tomorrow night.

4. Afrika Mkhize

Mkhize is this year’s Standard Bank Young Artist Of the Year for Jazz.

The child protégé of a music family, he started playing piano at age six.

He is the son of respected composer and pianist Themba Mkhize.

The classically trained Mkhize has produced and collaborated with musicians as varied as Miriam Makeba, MXO, Sibongile Khumalo, Marcus Wyatt (who also headlines this year’s Joy Of Jazz) and Kabelo from TKZ.

Though Mkhize’s grit as a straight-ahead jazz musician is unquestionable, he has never led his own band to play his own compositions.

This is what makes his appearance at the festival special, the sideman is finally leading.

» He performs at the Bassline tomorrow evening.

5. Caiphus Semenya
Semenya is one of South Africa’s elder statesmen, not just in jazz but in music as a whole.

His performances are always memorable, taking revellers on a wonderful trip down memory lane.
He is a contemporary of the likes of Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela, hence Semenya’s sing-along hit are sure to evoke warm recollections.

Fans can expect hit songs he recorded with his longtime collaborator and wife, Letta Mbulu.

Including Woman Got a Right To Be and Ndiphendule.

» He performs on the Conga Stage tomorrow night.

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