Cape Town - Every year before the Cape Town International Jazz Festival starts, there is a teaser called the Free Community Concert.
A foretaste of the festival, it comprises performances by some of the world-class artists, at no charge to the public.
This year’s prefestival concert took place on Wednesday, and the musos more than delivered.
They transformed Greenmarket Square from a market into a haven of beautiful sounds as people imbibed jazz in a harmonious atmosphere – marking a welcome change to the dramatic events of the week.
The audience, made up of thousands, comprised a mix of young and old, tourists and locals.
The opening act was the All Star Band, a developmental ensemble comprising a group of learners selected from different schools that attended the Music and Career Workshop Programme, an initiative aimed at exposing young musicians to bigger platforms and broadening their understanding of the music industry.
The nine-piece band, whose youngest member is 14 years old, was facilitated by saxophonist Donveno Prins and jazz pianist Camillo Lombard.
Also on stage was Danielle Jacobs, the 2017 winner of the SA Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union’s annual talent contest; VuDu, the nu-jazz collective who won the 2017 espYoung Legends contest, which was spearheaded in 2015 by espAfrika, organisers of the Cape Town jazz fest, to discover new talent; Mozambican saxophonist Moreira Chonguica; and US R&B all-female group En Vogue.
A spirit of humanity blended with the soulful sounds.
Next to me, Capetonian Solly Solomons gave up his seat to Yong Heekin, a Korean tourist visiting Cape Town for the first time and happening on Greenmarket.
“I love African music and original jazz,” she enthused.
The historic square was full of security personnel. There was no rest for the homeless, who had to look “decent” to avoid being thrown out of Greenmarket by the officials.
Two large screens made it easy for the audience to enjoy the performances.
A highlight was Afro-pop band Mango Groove’s rendition of their classic, Special Star.
The audience sang along, and the dancers moving to the kwela sounds on stage took us back to when we first heard the iconic song.
Now in its 18th year, the actual festival saw more than 40 international and local artists perform over two days at the International Convention Centre.
Friday’s line-up included baritone vocalist Tsepo Tshola; US saxman Kamasi Washington; Mango Groove; En Vogue; last year’s Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year winner for jazz, Siya Makuzeni; US musos Gretchen Parlato and Taylor McFerrin; VuDu; SA Music Award winner Tresor and the UK’s Tom Misch.
Saturday’s line-up included UK soul singer Laura Mvula, Skyjack, a band of five jazz musos from South Africa and Switzerland; the US’s Andra Day, multigenre duo The Internet and Afro-jazz singer Thandiswa Mazwai.