Billed as a World Class Jazz Festival in South Africa the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz Festival lives up to its boast. The venue for this annual happening has changed from downtown Newtown to the Sandton Convention Centre. Another blow to the hopes of the city fathers for Newtown to be Joburg’s cultural precinct, but what a pleasure it was to be using the Sandton Convention Centre with its safe parking, no vagrants and its friendly, efficient staff (the lifts are a little stressed, but that is a minor issue). There were apparently some teething problems, but the only suggestion I can make for improvement is for the programme to list the floor numbers of the various stages. Everything else appeared to be seamless.
It truly was a star-studded line-up with Dianne Reeves, Billy Ocean, Delfeayo Marsalis, Sibongile Khumalo and Jonas Gwangwa among the world’s jazz giants on Joy of Jazz stages this year. The Dinaledi stage is where I spent my time. It seats 4500 people and for some artists, like the Feya Faku Quintet, it was full to capacity. It is the only stage used on the Thursday night where the South African Jazz Divas, Gloria Bosman, Melanie Scholtz, Sibongile Khumalo and Tutu Puoane performed. I got to see Roberta Gambarini, Dianne Reeves, Ann Hampton Callaway, Herbie Tsoaeli, the Feya Faku Quintet and the Roy Hargrove Quintet performing there.
After Feya Faku, I found Ann Hampton Callaway to be the most entrancing act of the weekend. She’s funny, witty and has a wonderful sound. Miss Callaway is also a multi-platinum-selling singer, composer, lyricist, pianist and actress. She wrote and performed the theme tune for The Nanny. During the show she took phrases from the audience and then wove it into a song. It was quite magical and most entertaining.
The Conga seats 4100 people who doubtless enjoyed Jonas Gwangwa as well as the Standard Bank Young Artist 2014 for Jazz, Kyle Shepherd (pianist), New Orleans trumpeter Christian Scott, and Omar Sosa – also a pianist and bass guitarist Richard Bona.
The Mbira stage seats 2400 and Billy Ocean, the popular British R&B singer songwriter from the 1980s was the main attraction (well, for my age group) for this venue, but Kicks and Sticks from Germany and Dwele, a USA based soul singer, also performed on this stage.
The Diphala Stage seats only 1000 people and it played host to the Carlo Mombelli Quartet, trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis, the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz and Tomasz Stanko as well as to Charmaine Clamo, The Uptown Jazz Orchestra, and the Mike Rossi Project.
The South African giants, Carlo Mobelli, Sibongili Khumalo, Kyle Shepherd, Feya Faku, Herbie Tsoaeli, were most certainly not lost in between the international line-up. They are worthy contenders for “world class” and even “world greats”.
The dates for 2015 have been announced. 24, 25 and 26 September 2015. (24 September is Heritage Day, falls on a Thursday, so remember to put in for leave for Friday 25 September so you can stay till the end). http://www.joyofjazz.co.za, http://www.facebook.com/standardbankjoyofjazz and http://www.twitter.com/joyofjazz2014.