Celebrating a 30-year legacy dedicated to jazz

2011-12-15 00:00

“NICOLA and I are the custodians of the Rainbow’s history, and are keeping the music going,” Neil Comfort, owner of the Rainbow Restaurant says of his role at the helm of the iconic Pinetown jazz club, which is celebrating its 30th birthday this weekend.

The Comforts took over the club from Ben Pretorius in 2001, having taken out a second bond and used every cent of Nicola’s savings, and they both reckon it has been worth the sacrifice made in terms of money and time.

“We worked hard and were both here seven days a week in those early days ... and even now for concerts we bring our girls. We feel it’s important for them to know the music of their country,” Nicola said. “We’re the ones who’ve gained from running the Rainbow.”

The late Busi Mhlongo played at the handover concert and since then, ­Neil has made sure that his patrons get to hear the best jazz in the country.

“Our regulars have quite conservative tastes when it comes to music,” Neil said. “They’ve been treated to the best in South African jazz for the past 30 years, so it is a bit difficult to get them to try something new. Reggae, kwaito and hip-hop are definite no-nos.”

And because it’s quite tricky to get sponsorship for their concerts, the Comforts usually only stage one big gig a month — this weekend being an exception.

“We don’t do as many shows as we’d like to because we don’t want to be a ­financial burden on our clients, many of whom have been regulars since the ­beginning. We usually do one big show a month and everyone loves it — whether they’re working class or big business. Everyone is there to enjoy good music — you leave your issues at the door,” Neil added.

The Rainbow’s 30th birthday party kicks off tomorrow at 23 Stanfield Lane with a performance by maskandi group Shabalala Rhythm.

Doors open at noon, with the first set starting just after 2 pm. Tickets are R10 for members and R30 at the door.

On Saturday, music fans can catch the Neil Gonsalves Quartet in a concert sponsored by Oude Meester, which means entry is free.

Gonsalves will be playing piano, with Shaun Duvall on saxophone, S’busiso Zondi on drums and Philani Ngidi on bass. Doors open at 10 am with the music happening between 4 pm and 6 pm.

The weekend’s celebrations end on Sunday with a massive party sponsored by the eThekwini Municipality ­Department of Arts and Living Cultures.

The 16-member Durban Gospel Choir gets the party started, before Pretorius and other dignitaries take to the podium.

Guests will then be treated to the opening set from a band put together especially for the party.

It includes Steve Dyer (saxophones), Feya Faku (trumpet and flugelhorn), Andile Yenana (piano), Lex Futshane (double and electric basses), Themba Mokoena (guitar) and Ayanda Sikade (drums). Joining them on vocals will be Xolisa Dlamini.

Doors open at 1 pm and tickets are R120, which includes a copy of a special commemorative 2012 calendar produced in partnership with photographer Rafs Mayet, who has been photo­graphically “recording” the Rainbow gigs since the mid-eighties. Between the band’s two sets, a slide show of Mayet’s extensive archive will be screened.

For more information, phone 031 702 9161 or 083 463 8044.

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