The countdown to the 2018 Standard Bank Jazz Festival kicks off with a line-up of leading musicians poised to make it an unforgettable 31 st edition at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.

Taking place from 28 June until 7 July, the programme will celebrate great jazz legacies with a league of world-class musicians, reimagining them with a youthful verve. “This year’s programme will celebrate key jazz milestones, give a nod to great musical traditions from across the African continent and showcase some of the best among what Europe and the United States has to offer today,” says Alan Webster, Director of the Standard Bank Jazz Festival. Classics from the great pool of hip-hop and soul music genius are given a jazz treatment by the Rebirth of Cool led by pianist Thandi Ntuli – the current Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz – and DJ Kenzhero.

The lofty legacy of the historic band, the Blue Notes is revisited with dexterous musical adoration by star-studded Blue Notes Tribute Orchestra led by trumpeter Marcus Wyatt. Award- winning writer Percy Mabandu will lead an interdisciplinary performance to mark the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Yakhal’inkomo, the historic record released in 1968 by the late saxophonist, Winston Mankunku Ngozi.

The project will bring together literature with the masterful jazz musicianship of Andile Yenana, Shane Cooper, Ayanda Sikade and Linda Sikhakhane and Sisonke Xonti. The late, great John Coltrane devotee, American saxophonist Michael Brecker will have his music reimagined by a band led by Norwegian saxophonist Petter Wettre in a project titled “Don’t try this at home” – A Tribute to Michael Brecker. Well-known American pianist Aaron Goldberg (US), has for two decades toured the world with Joshua Redman and brings his trio to Africa for the first time. In what is perhaps one of the longest running musical partnerships in our history, saxophonist McCoy Mrubata and pianist Paul Hanmer will give a performance that reflects their influences on each other in celebration of 30 years of collaboration.

The SBJF is arguably the most visionary jazz festival in the world, thanks to its educational wing, the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Festival (SBNYJF), which has for the past 26 years been investing in the country’s young musicians. The best among these will be on stage with the Standard Bank National Schools Big Band conducted by Dr Gordon Vernick, Professor of Music and Coordinator of Jazz Studies at Georgia State University. The Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Band is made up of musicians between the ages of 19 and 25 years from across the country conducted by pianist, vocalist, composer, arranger and educator Amanda Tiffin, who is Head of Jazz Singing and Acting Head of Jazz Studies at the University of Cape Town.

“There’s a reason SBJF has a global reputation as a barometer of not only the current quality of jazz musicianship in South Africa, but a launching ground for future industry leaders too. The focus on development of young musicians and the way the festival celebrates our jazz heritage exemplifies our values captured by our campaign call for this year; Art_is! We are convinced art and jazz music in particular, are central to building a healthy society,” says Jenny Pheiffer, Head: Brand and Sponsorship Standard Bank.

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