Tutu Puoane – The Joni Mitchell Project

When Tutu Puoane announces during a live performance at the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz Festival that she has a new album and goes on to say she is willing to sign it, there’s no need to waste time.  Get the album, ask her to sign it and ask for a photo with her.  That is what some people did at the event marking the 20th anniversary of the biggest event in South Africa’s jazz calendar.

Puoane is no stranger to paying tribute to those artists that inspired her to take singing as a career.  One of her albums is a dedicated to the late Miriam Makeba who was affectionately known as Mama Africa to her adoring fans.  Her tribute to the well-travelled icon was well received by critics and jazz enthusiasts.

This time around Tutu Puoane is back with another tribute to the Canadian multi award singer – songwriter Joni Mitchell.  Besides being a great musician, Mitchell also designed covers of her albums.  The impressive list of artists that she worked with include Wayne Shorter, Charles Mingus, Pat Metheny and Herbie Hancock.

Recorded live at the Stadsschouwburg in Mechelen, this 9-track album is a fitting tribute to one of the best female artists who started as rock artist in the 60’s and slowly shifted towards jazz in the 70’s and had a career many of her peers were dreaming of.

Tutu is accompanied by Tineke Postma on alto and soprano saxophone, Ewout Pierreux on piano, Clemens van der Feen on bass and Jasper Van Hulten on drums.  On the opening track entitled River, she warns the audience that there will lots of singing along to be done and they oblige to that request in some of the remaining songs.

Her rendition of Goodbye Pork Pie Hat is a beauty.  She sings it with extreme confidence.  Clemens on bass reminds us of who Charlie Mingus was, a great bass player no doubt.  God must be a boogie man is a song that gets the audience singing along.  In case you have doubts about how special a father and daughter relationship can be, My Old Man is a reminder of that.

Dwight Trible – Inspirations

No stranger to South Africans, this vocalist has released this album with the help of Matthew Harsall on trumpet, Taz Modi on piano, Gavin Barras on bass and Jon Scott on drums.  Dwight Trible has previously worked with artists such as Bobby Hutcherson, Charles Lloyd and Harry Belafonte.

His opening track is a composition by Burt Bacharach and Hal David entitled What the world needs now is love which has been recorded by so many artists before him.  This is followed by a Donny Hathaway and Leroy Hutson composition entitled Tryin’ Times. His jazz version of a soul classic is done lyrically beautiful.  Trible has a great voice.

What an inspiration Feeling good is to listen to.  Trible’s rendition of a John Coltrane classic Dear Lord is so compelling and spiritual just like the original recording.  He also shows his pride of his skin colour in the tune entitled Black is the colour of my true love’s hair.  Such a great album from a legendary vocalist who never disappoints when he goes to the recording studio.

One cannot ignore Matthew Harsall’s trumpet and the way the him and Dwight interact in the songs is world class.  If this album was meant to inspire jazz collectors, it has definitely managed to do that.  Even though Trible was not in the line-up of this year’s Standard Bank Joy of Jazz Festival, hopefully he will make another return in the future and perform songs from this album.

Benjamin Jephta – The Evolution Of An Undefined

This is the second album from Benjamin Jephta after his successful debut album entitled Homecoming.  This Cape Town born double bass and electric bass player is also a great composer who is not ashamed to explore his youthful side as a jazz artist.  He says he is influenced by popular culture and also like other music genres such as hip-hop, rap and rock.

When recording this second album, he worked with Sphelelo Mazibuko and Reuben Crowie on drums, Kyle Shepherd and Bokani Dyer on keys, Keenan Ahrends on guitar, Marcus Wyatt on trumpet, Sisonke Xonti on tenor sax and Nhlanhla Mahlangu on alto sax. The design of the album by Romy Brauteseth is worth mentioning.

In the sleeve of the album, Jephta states that “If Homecoming was about rediscovering who I am, now, Evolution Of An Undefined is about who I will be. Modifying. Reconstruction. Progressing”.  Such a powerful statement by this year’s Standard Bank Young Artist.

What cannot be ignored while listening to this album is that it is by a solo bass player after all.  Jitsvinger, Eden Myrrh and Thapelo Lekoane do some rap in Afrikaans and vocals in Identity, reminding some of us about the life lived in Cape Town.  He performed Evolution at the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz Festival last month, much to the delight of the audience.  Jitsvinger is also featured in the tune Song for Ellen Pakkies.