Star attractions Lionel Loueke, the Stockholm Jazz Orchestra, Yuri Honing & Peter Dahlgren will share the stage with top SA artists
Some of the world's biggest jazz innovators are the headline attractions at this year's Standard Bank Jazz Festival, Grahamstown, which forms part of the National Arts Festival from 2 to 11 July. Offering not only the opportunity to see some of the world's leading contemporary practitioners live on stage, the Festival also provides a platform for some unique collaborative performances with some of South Africa's foremost jazz musicians in a range of settings.
International headliners include the Netherland's dynamic saxophonist Yuri Honing; Swedish greats trombonist Peter Dahlgren and saxophonist Johan Hörlén; New-York based West African guitarist Lionel Loueke and the Stockholm Jazz Orchestra, regarded as one of the premier contemporary big bands in the world.
The 2015 programme, which features more than 140 top musicians, is one of the strongest ever presented and is expected to draw jazz lovers nationally and internationally thanks to its mix of solid jazz and fresh crossover sounds.
One of the goals of the Standard Bank Jazz Festival, Grahamstown is to open up opportunities for networking and collaboration between international performers and their South African counterparts.
Hailed as a "gentle virtuoso" by The New York Times, West African guitarist Lionel Loueke - who studied at the Berklee College of Music and the Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz - has been praised by his mentor, Herbie Hancock, as "a musical painter" who combines harmonic complexity, soaring melody, a deep knowledge of African folk forms, and conventional and extended guitar techniques to create a warm and evocative sound of his own. It will be a unique opportunity to hear Loueke play with top South African artists - he will be sharing the stage in one performance with Concord Nkabinde and in another with SA musicians Siya Makuzeni, Marcus Wyatt, Shane Cooper and Ayanda Sikade.
The renowned Stockholm Jazz Orchestra, where every member is a jazz soloist in their own right, is celebrating 30 years of swinging big band music, having performed all over the world. They will be giving two performances, including one in which they play the music of Ann-Sofi Söderqvist, professor of composition at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm and an extraordinary big band composer and arranger in her own right. This visit marks a decade since the Orchestra last performed in Grahamstown.
One of Holland's most important saxophone players, Yuri Honing's unique personal style - based on jazz, pop and non-Western musical traditions - and his powerful sound, similar to the human voice, amount to a musical revelation. In 2012 he was awarded the Boy Edgar Prize, the most prestigious jazz prize in the Netherlands.
Swedish trombonist Peter Dahlgren, regarded as one of the strongest young modern jazz voices in Europe, displays a technical ease and clear sound on one of the more complex of the jazz instruments. He will be performing with SA artists including Mark Fransman. His compatriot Johan Hörlén, one of the best jazz alto saxophonists in Sweden, will be collaborating with former Standard Bank Young Artist for jazz Kesivan Naidoo.
Other international artists at the festival include Austrian pianist David Helbock, French drummer André Charlier, violinist Chi-pin Hsieh and pianist Kai-ya Chang from Taiwan, Zimbabwean singer/guitarist Oliver Mtukudzi and multi-award winning Nigerian guitarist Kunle Ayo.
The strong South African contingent this year includes Carlo Mombelli, Pops Mohammed, Bokani Dyer, Vuma Levin, Ray Phiri, Benjamin Jephta, Auriol Hays, Don Laka and Siya Makuzeni.
This year's Standard Bank Young Artist award winner, pianist and composer Nduduzo Makhathini, will perform with fellow South Africans Feya Faku, Ayanda Sikade and Nomagugu Makhathini, in collaboration with Swedish jazz players, to pay homage to musical legends who have built the great legacy that is South African jazz.
Commented Hazel Chimhandamba, Head of Group Sponsorships at Standard Bank; "Jazz in Grahamstown has always been built on collaboration and sharing of skills and knowledge which has produced some magic over the years and driven the jazz conversation into new territory. And this year is amongst the most exciting line ups we've had."
Tickets to the Standard Bank Jazz Festival, Grahamstown are available at www.nationalartsfestival. Festival programmes and booking kits are available at Exclusive Books branches and from select Standard Bank branches (see list below). The full jazz programme is available online at http://www.standardbankarts.co.za and http://www.youthjazz.co.za