Jazz enthusiasts will be heading to the City of Tshwane this coming weekend, 8th and 9th December, as the capital will be hosting the inaugural Tshwane International Big Band Festival, which will take place at the Freedom Park.  With a line-up that includes saxophonist and vocalist Billy Harper, trombonist Steve Turre, saxophonist Salim Washington, vibraphonist Stefon Harris, who are American artists and Dutch saxophonist Paul Van Kamenade, jazz cats could not have asked for a better line-up to end what has been a memorable year in arts and entertainment.

The line-up also includes the best of South African artists who will share the stage with their US and Dutch counterparts.  These are vocalists Caiphus Semenya, Simphiwe Dana, vocalist and guitarist Madala Kunene, bassist Herbie Tsoaeli, pianist Nduduzo Makhathini, trumpeters Feya Faku and Marcus Wyatt.  The artists billed to perform boast a mind-boggling combined number of years in the industry, producing and performing music at the highest level internationally and locally.

“We are delighted to welcome the global talents of Billy Harper and Steve Turre to our stage.  While their presence will add further depth and dimension to an already exciting programme, it is unfortunate that we also have to announce the withdrawal of Kenny Garrett, due to ill-health”, says Oupa Salemane, CEO of Jazz Foundation of SA.

Billy Harper, the renowned American saxophonist, is also adding his name and his blend of spiritual and traditional music, to the line-up of great musical talent on offer at the Tshwane International Big Band Festival.  His unique music creativity was first noted in Houston, Texas, where, at the age of 5, he was singing at sacred and secular functions and participating in choral and solo singing events.  By age 14, he performed his first Billy Harper Quintet while still a student at Evan E. Worthing High School.

Throughout Harper’s career, there has been a pattern of spiritual growth and innovation.  “My feeling is that music should have a purpose. In the past, it always has been used for healing, uplifting and meditation.  And that’s the way I see music.  I’ve had people come up after a program to tell me that they felt a spiritual healing from the music.  When that happens, then I feel we’re fulfilling what we’re supposed to do.  If people are entertained, that’s okay too.  But I certainly see a purpose in my music beyond that”, says Harper.

Trombonist and composer Steve Turre has long been lauded as one of the modern champions of his instrument.  He occupies a unique patch of real estate in the art form as a virtuoso with a speciality in playing and making sea shells as an ancestral Aztecan birthright instrument…as a composer, arranger, bandleader and educator…as one who straddles the perceived boundaries of Jazz, Big Band, Latin Jazz and R&B/Funk…and, as a session player who has held down the ‘bone’ chair in the Saturday Night Live television show band for three decades.

“I’ve always felt that the music is about giving”, Turre states in explanation of his Spiritman concept and his philosophy of music in general.  “You give of your life force through your instrument to create a vibration that can heal.  In that sense, a musician is like a doctor: the more you give of yourself, the better you can make people feel.  Within every culture music is a vital part of people’s nature…yet each culture is different.  Jazz brings a lot of those elements together, drawing from many sources.  It’s the first in world music”.

The big band concept is based on a model that brings together groups of accomplishment, world class headline artists, both local and from abroad, who share the stage with a group of talented, local jazz musicians who create the Big Band sound.  The symphonic orchestra will add its Eurocentric colour and sound to the traditional Big Band Jazz orchestra.  This unique performance format is set to break the mould of live music performance as we know it.

“Two stages will be deployed as part of the festival: an indoor 500-seat arrangement as well as an outdoor amphitheatre that seats 2000 guests. Tickets are now on sale through Computicket with a one-day pass available for R500 and a two-day pass at R650”, Meropa Communications who are handling media and publicity for the Tshwane International Big Band Festival, told Marabi Jazz Lounge. The event, which will start at 19h00 on Friday the 8th, and at 18h30 on Saturday the 9th, is brought to jazz lovers by the Jazz Foundation of SA, National Lotteries Commission, 702 and Tiso Blackstar.

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