April 13, 2016. Posted by Simon Rentner.
You may remember WBGO’s Rhonda Hamilton’s reports from South Africa at last year’s Cape Town International Jazz Festival, including her account of witnessing some of the country’s natural wonders of elephants, rhinos, and lions.
This year, we experienced South Africa’s safari a bit differently - we swapped the diesel-fueled 4X4 Land Cruisers packed with camera-happy tourists for a much smaller group with binoculars in-hand and hiking boots on-foot.
Plus, most importantly, this year we were accompanied by two of the more knowledgeable guides in the entire region, also equipped with rifles and elephant-killing (god forbid) caliber bullets.
Sarah Nurse and Rhodes Bezuidenhout are our guides for our 4-day Pafuri “walking trail,” provided by Return Africa at Kruger National Park. This area was introduced to us last year by bassist Carlo Mombelli. He described it as “South Africa’s Notre Dame,” his country’s most important tourist attraction.
Kruger is the rarest of National Parks just in terms of its sheer size. As one of the largest protected areas on the planet, it covers 7,523 square miles, about the size of Israel. The area we hike only features one percent of that land, but offers some of its richest landscape, situated at the park’s northeast corner on the border of Zimbabwe and Mozambique. It’s one of the most biologically-diverse areas in South Africa. About 75 percent of Kruger wildlife diversity can be discovered here.
The best way to get up close and personal with Mother Africa Nature is on foot, leaving all vehicles behind. This way of “roughing it” and experiencing the bush may not be for everyone: hiking underneath a scorching sun with sudden, chance encounters with South Africa’s Big Five: buffalo, rhino, elephants, lions, and leopards, will certainly raise any spectator’s blood pressure. My heart palpitated when we encountered a herd of curious, unflinching African buffalo.
Our guides tell us these beasts are the most dangerous and unpredictable mammals in Kruger’s animal kingdom. But the thrill of watching them on foot is only half of the story. The moments of the walking trail that are most memorable are more subtle – like hearing the wind rustle through the Fever Tree forest. (Fever trees got its name because they were once believed to be the cause of malaria.)
Or, the endless loop of exotic African songbirds, singing, chirping, dancing all around you.
Or, the graceful galloping of all its deer-like creatures: zebras, impalla, nyalla, and kudu running next to your path. I swear I even felt the ground reverberate, sending chills down my spine.
And just when the serenity and natural beauty is all too much and your spirit couldn’t get anymore tranquil, you turn a blind corner to find the rear of an giant elephant, tail wagging exuberantly, only a few yards away.
The unpredictability of the bush is really one of its biggest selling points, especially when you are on foot. Every walk offers its own story and surprise engagement with the most compelling natural world around you. And, if the Pafuri Walking Trails isn’t your thing, which is a step up from car camping -- I believe the term is “glamping" -- then you can opt for a more luxurious stay in Return Africa’s Pafuri Camp, complete with 4X4 vehicles, 19 designer lodges with en-suite bathrooms, fine dining, full amenities, and a view of the Luvuvhu River that will steal your breath away.
© 2016 WBGO
April 12, 2016. Posted by Brandy Wood.
The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis and vocalist Kate Davis pay tribute to Broadway’s brightest lights. The famed avenue has been home to some of the most talented, inventive, and sophisticated composers, many with jazz-oriented roots. Harold Arlen wrote over 500 songs, including many for the stage as well as the classic “Over the Rainbow,” which was voted the No. 1 song by the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Endowment for the Arts. Jerome Kern and Irving Berlin are two of the most significant American theatrical composers of the early 20th century, each having been represented on Broadway hundreds of times. The list goes on: composers like Cole Porter, Stephen Sondheim, and Mel Brooks have penned time-tested musical gems that continue to uplift and entertain – both on Broadway and on record. In tonight’s performance, gutsy songstress Kate Davis shares her own fresh spin on the standards, which are sure to put you in a New York state of mind.
CONTEST HAS ENDED
© 2016 WBGO
April 12, 2016. Posted by Corey Goldberg.
Singers Catherine Russell, Carolyn Leonhart, and LaTanya Hall stop by Singers Unlimited to talk about growing up in musical families - and their experiences harmonizing together with Steely Dan. Hear how they rise to the challenge when Michael Bourne puts them on the spot to improvise a harmonization of "Honeysuckle Rose".
© 2016 WBGO
April 12, 2016. Posted by Simon Rentner.
The Cape Town International Jazz Festival is a fabulous way to see South Africa’s unique perspective and definition of jazz music. Singer-songwriters that perform something closer to “neo-soul” or “smooth jazz” -- Angie Stone, SWV, and Jazz Attack featuring Peter White, Rick Braun, and Euge Groove – are all billed as jazz headliners here. Nevertheless, many of the "heavier" musicians that we know in New York City, many of whom who have appeared on The Checkout, such as saxophonist Mark Turner, are featured here too. (Listen to that interview here.)
And the Cape Town Jazz Fest certainly offers its own native crop of serious jazz talent such as Bokani Dyer, Themba Mokena, Thandi Ntuli, Nduduzo Makhathini, and Benjamin Jephta. Listen to The Checkout's interview with Benjamin Jephta from last year here.
My favorite venue to hear this kind of talent is undoubtably Rosies. It’s the smallest space at Cape Town’s brand new convention center, yet offers the best ambience and sound, and it’s not even close. It’s also an experience worth paying for -- those concerts usually require an additional ticket price. Tumi Mogorosi performed at Rosies this year.
He may be a rising star in South Africa, but remains relatively unknown on jazz’s international landscape, at least for now. (The Checkout intends to remedy that a little with an upcoming feature with him soon.) The Sotho drummer and composer released The Elo Project in 2014, a more-or-less string-less trio of drums, bass, and saxophone with sparse interjections of guitar and trombone. Its distinctive and most important ingredient: a vocal quartet. This small choir with jazz combo sounds similar to what Kamasi Washington released a year later with his recording The Epic.
By far the concert I enjoyed most at Rosies this year, and perhaps my favorite concert ever from my three years of attending The Cape Town International Jazz Festival, was guitarist Derek Gripper, solo. Who plays the music of Bach, Egberto Gismonti, Ali Farka Touré, and Toumani Diabate all in the same set? No one I can think of. This classically-trained guitarist whose based in Cape Town is making us rethink how we perceive the music of some of Africa’s greatest composers of the 20th century when he compares the work of Bach with that of Touré and Diabate.
We recorded an intimate interview and field recording with the guitarist in his home at the base of Cape Town’s Table Mountain. Look out for that soon, including music from his latest (awesome) recording Libraries On Fire. That name refers to a griots death in West African culture. When a griot dies, a library burns.
Ilhan Erhasin is all over the globe these days, playing with his Turkish popstar friends, or curating an electro-jazz festival in Sao Paulo, Brazil. We New Yorkers know and love the saxophonist for his Lower East Side establishment known as NuBlu. In his upcoming interview for The Checkout, he reveals that his iconic New York club is moving soon, and also shares music from his recording The Istanbul Sessions.
Just when you think the legend behind Toronto’s rogue jazz trio couldn’t get any more mystical, these bad boys of jazz, BadBadNotGood, keeps dropping the magic -- releasing jazz/hip hop gems on the interwebs and enchanting young audiences at music festivals. South Africa’s millennials – who are often referred to as “Born-Frees” in Cape Town – were the subjects this time. The enthusiastic crowd was rewarded by a supernatural guest appearance of Yasiin Bey formerly known as Mos Def. I can’t think of a better way to end The Cape Town International Jazz Festival’s 17th installment.
© 2016 WBGO
April 11, 2016. Posted by Corey Goldberg.
Queens College International Quintet stops by to celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month. A diverse collective of students from around the world, this group's original compositions demonstrate the power of jazz as language both distinctly global and intimately personal.
Hear this group and other top student ensembles featured on 88.3 FM throughout the month of April.
Keep watching the blog for more complete JAM sessions all month long.
The Queens College International Quintet, directed by David Berkman
1) Like Kenny (composed by Samvel Sarkisian)
2) January (composed by Miyoung Lee)
3) Brooklyn Bound (composed by Flavio Silva)
Flavio Silva (Brazil) - Guitar
Sergej Avenesov (Russia) - Tenor Sax
Miyoung Lee (Korea) - Piano
Chang Min Jun (Korea) - Bass
Samvel Sarkisian (Russia) - Drums
© 2016 WBGO