By Peter Feldman
South Africa has a special lure for international artists and two important names in the world of jazz, Bill Champlin and Bob James (pictured), have already savoured the fruits of this country.
Champlin, who was an integral part of the great group Chicago, performed at Sun City in the 80s heyday and found the experience “amazing”.
The 69-year-old Grammy Award winning musician recalls: “We actually had a ball playing down there and on a few days off we went to Botswana for a game watching safari and that was really fun. It was a long flight from California, but worth it to be in South Africa, a beautiful country. I also brought my wife Tamara along, which made the trip special.”
This master musician will perform at the annual Standard Bank Joy of Jazz event at the Sandton Convention Centre from September 15 to 17.
Champlin will form part of a galaxy of stars at the event. Fans can see him in action when he joins forces on stage with four time Grammy Award winning vocalist Deniece Williams; Brenda Russell, who is co-creator of the music and lyrics for the Tony Award winning Broadway hit ‘The Color Purple’, to be staged at the State Theatre in Pretoria soon; and ace drummer Paul Peress. Their band is called Sounds of Love and is a not-to-be-missed collaboration between great artists.
Another renowned name in jazz is the legendary Bob James, whose visits to South Africa in the past were enriching experiences. “South Africa has a rich cultural heritage and I am influenced by its varied music. I am always inspired to listen and learn,” he said in an interview.
James, a veteran musician of many decades and many accolades, has made numerous trips to the country over the years and always finds it an enriching experience. He is an American two-time Grammy Award-winning smooth jazz keyboardist, arranger and record producer, recognised as one of the original founders of smooth jazz and renowned for the complexity of his arrangements and instrumentals.
Asked what repertoire fans can expect and whether it was difficult to choose material for the concerts, he replied: “Of course, I will try to play the songs that have become associated with me, but I also like to surprise my fans with new things. I hope they will enjoy going on a musical journey with me. I hope to play a few songs that are brand new and not yet available on CD.”
Music is his life, he said, and continues to drive him. “It’s my passion, my hobby, my exercise, my relaxation. I never tire of trying to keep getting better, dig deeper to capture the emotions that give me energy.”
One international name coming to South Africa for the first time is José James, one of jazz music’s most vibrant singers. Often referred to as a jazz singer for the hip-hop generation, New York City-based vocalist José James combines jazz, soul, drum’n’bass, and the spoken word into his own unique brand of vocal jazz.
He said he was “definitely” looking forward to his first trip here. “Many of my friends have performed there already so I know it’s gonna be amazing. I love travelling to perform in new places and I’m excited to meet all my fans there.”
Asked to describe his music, he said: “It’s sexy and powerful. It’s a blend of R&B, jazz and soul; a vision for the future and a bridge to the past. I’ll be performing with an all-star band from New York, Takeshi Ohbayashi, Josh Hari and Nate Smith. I’ll do a mix of old and new songs since it’s my first time here.”
Standard Bank Joy of Jazz is now in its 19th year and is recognised as South Africa’s foremost jazz festival, and one of the best on the African continent.
The line-up glitters; American jazz giant Gerald Albright and South Africa’s Jonathan Butler will join forces at the opening night on September 15 and should be an exciting and innovative pairing.
Other artists to be seen and appreciated during the three-day event are tenor saxophonist Houston Person, known for his legendary partnership with the great vocalist Etta Jones; Canadian based vocalist Ranee Lee, popular for her ability to channel the grand dames of jazz; and US born vocalist Deborah J Carter, who will team up with Paul van Kessel from the Netherlands.
The South African contingent includes legends Barney Rachabane; Sibongile Khumalo; 2015 Grammy Award winning flautist Wouter Kellerman; ‘The Voice South Africa’ coach Lira; and perennial favourites Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse and Ringo.
It should be a wonderful three days of music.
Tickets are on sale at Computicket. A one-day pass costs R750 with a two-day pass at R1250.
Discounted tickets are available for all Standard Bank card holders. There is a 10% discount when tickets are bought using a valid Standard Bank debit and cheque card. The discount is 15% when payment is made with a valid Standard Bank credit card at a Computicket outlet and online. The offer is limited to two tickets per person who meet the criteria. Terms and conditions apply.