- Coltrane still rules
Despite the bandwagon-jumping and often ill-informed writing that surrounded this mid-year release of a “lost” Coltrane album – the 1983 Both Directions at Once – there’s still no mistaking the technical skill and spiritual power of John Coltrane, as well as his enduring influence on saxophonists across the world – including here. The album instantly charted everywhere sales charts are still maintained. Some buyers may have bought it for irrelevant reasons of fashion or status, but if they listened to it even once, they must have learned something.
- “Placemaking” has arrived
The theory used to be about “clusters” and “cultural precincts”. Now the buzzword is “placemaking” – the spatial planning of public areas to build around, and on, existing social and cultural capital. See, for example, http://www.jicp.org.za/placemaking/ The upside for South African music, including jazz, is likely to be the integration of cultural planning into urban planning, and consequently some new venue spaces. The downside is the potential, already tracked in many cities worldwide, for heavily privatised placemaking to serve as a Trojan horse for gentrification. It’s the model on which New York’s SoHo District was colonised by elites.
Look at Maboneng, Braamfontein and more, and you can already see both tendencies. Creatives who moved in at low rents are now beginning to be squeezed to the margins, to pioneer fresh spaces as agents of gentrification, or squeezed out altogether. Homes and spots are segregated by affordability. Yet the newly developed areas also provide genuinely innovative creative activities and employment. There are still insiders and outsiders, but the societal fault lines differ from those previously drawn in the apartheid city. Skewed demographics are easily camouflaged by the surface democratic buzz of galleries, coffee shops, Sunday Markets and First Thursdays.
Even as we welcome new venues for the arts, we need to keep a critical eye on these other implications of placemaking. Poor and working people have the right to settle and socialise in the city at affordable rents and without the suspicious scrutiny of security guards, and to work there as more than service workers for rich patrons. That’s not going to happen without their voices – not only those of property developers and xenophobes – making a noise that’s heard in urban decision-making. Think about that when the elections come around.
- South African jazz keeps on getting better
It’s impossible to keep track of all the year’s new releases. Artists often publish their music independently, decent record stores no longer exist – have you visited the travesty that is Musica recently? – and, contrary to popular opinion, iTunes doesn’t have everything. But here’s a list of most, if not all, the SA jazz that has appeared in 2018, alphabetical by artist.
Claude Cozens – Improvisation 2
Bokani Dyer – Neo Native
Reza Khota — Liminal
Vuma Levin/Theo Douboule – In Motion
The Liberation Project
Mabuta – Welcome to This World
Sibu Mash Mashiloane – Closer to Home
Carlo Mombelli – Angels & Demons
Gabisile Motuba – Tefiti Goddess of Creation
Thandi Ntuli — Exiled
Saxit – Systeme Diabolique
Ibrahim Kalil Shihab – Essence of Spring
Ayanda Sikade — Movements (almost impossible to find)
Skyjack – The Hunter
Thabang Tabane — Matjale
Ariel Zamonsky/Juana Pires – Entre dos Mundos
- We miss them even more when they’re gone
We can’t begin to measure how much poorer the South African jazz scene is for the loss of the Poet Laureate of the nation, jazz (and much more) Keorapetse Kgositsile, trumpeter and activist Hugh Masekela, and unique guitarist, teacher and composer Dr Philip Nchipi Tabane.
The world jazz stage has suffered notable losses too. Among those who’ve left us:
- World Saxophone Quartet founder and bari player Hamiett Bluiett
- Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin
- Latin jazz innovator, trumpeter Jerry Gonzalez
- Village Vanguard jazz club co-owner Lorraine Gordon
- Composer and trumpeter Roy Hargrove
- Father of the Rn’B sax style, Big Jay McNeely
- Neville Brothers saxophonist Charles Neville
- Last Poets founder Jalal Mansur Nuriddin
- Innovative bluesman Otis Rush
- Pianist and composer Cecil Taylor
- Trombonist Bill Watrous
- Pianist and scholar of the African roots of jazz Randy Weston
- Song stylist supreme Nancy Wilson
May the spirits of all rest in peace.
To everybody who reads this blog, let’s hope 2019 bring better times and more good sounds. See you next year.