Thursday, October 29, 2020

Jazz bass according to Angus

You know one of those nights when the beautiful and unexpected just happen?

Well, during the Jazz Is Not Lost event collaboration between It Has To Be Jazz® and University of Johannesburg, such a moment presented itself. Totally unexpected! The program for the evening was simple and straight forward; at least I thought to myself! But that was not the case. The jazz students we were mentoring through the It Has To Be Jazz® initiative dubbed Know Your Change were going to be curtain raisers followed by Kamogelo Matsoso aka Kamo and her band.

‘Drummm rolll’ curtains opened and the first act was up! It was a duet of a singer and a bass player. And then the real surprise hit the stage like a tornado – Kamo and her band. You know I have a soft spot for women who play instruments that are dominated by men. A young lady with a saxophone came on stage and stood next to Kamo and the fireworks started. But you see, I am also seriously in love with bass. A young gentleman who was playing seated was obviously on a mission to really enjoy himself that night.

The first thing that truly impressed me about his style and sound signature was a carefree approach to notes while complementing what everyone else was playing. Let me just give you an idea of what I am talking about. Those who know Stanley Clarke, will tell you that whether he plays an electric bass or upright bass, his free approach to music just tells you everything about his understanding of how bass fits in any jazz song; even any other type of genre.

I later discovered that the highly energetic and funky jazz bass player’s name is Angus William Hardcastle. I giggled when they told me his name because at the time, I was thinking to myself that the Hardcastle must come from a long line of generations of groovy and funky musicians; Paul Hardcastle comes to mind. I think the best way to describe Angus would be, ‘A player whose complex musical soul flows with ease through his bass guitar!’ He has an amazing ability to take his audience in a journey that only he can champion.

When he plays, his physical gestures seem to suggest that only his body is there while his soul is somewhere else. It is the single most beautiful moment that produces some of the incredible jazz bass sounds I know. Very few musicians can actually do that and one would tend to expect that kind of play from someone older. But nooo! He is only 21 and turning 22 in March 2020. He takes his music serious as shown from his current pursuit of a BMus in Composition and Performance (4th year). His commitment is also clear and the results are the Kopano project – a well-orchestrated album with some of the finest young musicians.

It is abundantly clear that from the way Angus plays, he must have started very young; actually in 2007. Since then, he has done amazing works with the likes of Godfrey Mntambo, Tamara Dey, Dylan Fine, Viwo Kulati, Maria Mombelli and the Belly Buttons, The Liminals, Tefo Mahola, Keegan Steenkamp, MSMF, Motswedi Modiba, Asa Goerge, Kamo Matsoso, Josh Mokoena, Tsiamo Nkoane, Thamie Mahlangu, Thulane Ngondo, Enoch Maruta, Nicholas Bjorkman, Moeneeb Hendrix, Mohamed Dawjee, James Nevin, Jonathan Tait (folk), Rhythm and Tide (reggae). The list seems endless but I am certain you get the idea. It is also nice to know that he has been influenced by some of the great musicians like Spencer Mbadu and Carlo Mombelli.

Such great musicians as Angus make an effort to spread the jazz message and this you can easily pick up from where he has played and please allow me to share some of the places. They include Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, Pretoria, garden route (Hermanus Knysna etc) and Limpopo. These are the festivals where he performed and I find fascinating; Rocking the Daisies Main Stage in 2013, 2015 and 2017; Oppie  Koppi in 2016 and 2018, Ramfest in 2011, Up the Creek in 2017, Smoking Dragon 2015 and 2016, River Republic 2014, 2016 and 2017 as well as Flower Fest in 2018.

Angus has also made the popular jazz outfits list and this includes The Orbit, Jazz in the Native Yards (Kwa Sec), The Rand Club, Hanks, The Drawing Room, Alma Cafe, Roving Bantu and he is booked for the Crypt in July.

So, why did this article make the It Has To Be Jazz® project review? Angus is confirmation of youth committed to jazz. He is very gifted and I can hardly wait to review his work once he completes his studies.

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