Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Double or nothing

The It Has To Be Jazz® project team has reached a point of less pressure in executing some of its strategies. This basically means we can thoroughly think through different concepts and execute at our leisure. It is a fulfilling experience and we are just amazed at the results.

One of the most recent concepts is based on the career progression of some of the artists and jazz composers who have recorded under us. There are developments that call for a major celebration such as the awarding of the scholarship to Ntando Ngcapu for his outstanding performance at the SAMRO piano competition. But that was not the only thing worth celebrating. He was shortlisted for an international Yamaha piano concert held at UNISA. 

Vincent Ngubane has also been making waves on both television and big screens. He is one of the very few jazz artists and composers of note who have demonstrated their skills so well and have pushed the music envelope to its absolute maximum. We can never forget the time he played over 5 keyboards and piano during a live performance. Well, one can only watch with envy. Vincent has such a beautiful creative brain.

So much music came from these two fine jazz composers/artists during the competition and live performances. It became apparent to us that we could not let this music go to waste and the next best thing was to relive the moment. Another big task was to think about the recording that will also fulfil our commitment to the celebration of International Jazz Day (IJD). 

If it was only Ntando or Vincent to think about, it would have been a simple matter. In actual fact, that was what I recommended to my CEO Tshepo Maseko. But then, right from the onset he was adamant that we cannot take one and leave the other and that he was not prepared to compromise on his decision.

Mother luck came visiting bearing gifts. The South African Jazz Heritage Celebration concert was announced and that gave us a reason for a double celebration. With 2 outstanding pianists/keyboard players, we knew there was nothing to add to the ensemble or maybe not? We got hold of both musicians and briefed them on what we were trying to achieve.

Interest enough! They were both chuffed with the idea of a duet comprising of strictly 2 pianos/keyboards. Now Vincent continues to be inspired by Black Moses Ngwenya, the lead keyboard player of Soul Brothers and we knew from past experience that he was likely to want to play a keyboard. But then, we had no issues as long as they were both ready to relive their recent performances.

With both of them good to go, we secured the studio appointment. The day came and we started around midday. During sound check, a few musical ideas started coming out and in our opinion necessitated inclusion of other instruments like percussions. But it is a debate I and the CEO had away from everyone. I suppose we will leave the decision with you once a copy of the CD is available.

There was so much debate around the idea of 2 pianos and the final statement uttered by my CEO was Double Or Nothing. In a way, it made perfect sense especially with the 2 celebrations. We committed to record a total of 4 albums as a way of celebrating IJD coming to Africa for the first time. Double or Nothingis the fourth one and that makes it very special to us in more ways than one. The first thing is that it is living proof of what IJD stands for and that collectively communities can achieve a lot while addressing specific socio-economic issues. We have already seen, based on the results of It Has To Be Jazz® efforts, what is possible. 

There are many ways one can describe the music in this album. However, to me a lot of it, not only does it demonstrate new ideas in interpreting jazz music, ventures into the world of electronics. I find that fascinating because the likes of Esbjorn Svensson Trio has done that beautifully in some of their albums. It is important to note that jazz music is not fixed in time and with every generation the envelope is pushed further and further. But one thing stays forever, that is the unchanging heart of jazz that keeps people together.

So, why did this article make the It Has To Be Jazz® project review? We continue to celebrate jazz achievements regardless of where they take place and this recording is a humble representation of that achievement.

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