Mandla Mlangeni. Picture: Gregory FranzCollaborations are a key standout feature of the NAF 2019 Standard Bank Jazz Festival in Makhanda, running from 27 June to 7 July 2019. This year’s 32nd festival boasts plenty of diverse players from across the world coming together for this purpose.

One of the main highlights of the NAF 2019 Standard Bank Jazz Festival is the anticipation around exciting collaborations in the Standard Bank Young Artist’s chosen projects. This year, award-winner for jazz, trumpeter Mandla Mlangeni (pictured left) presents the Amandla Freedom Ensemble – Born To Be Black: A Celebration of the Conscious Soul – a super-band of nine musicians skilled in the art of improvisation, intended to be an “odyssey of musical meditation and healing”.  Mlangeni’s peers form the foundation of the group, helped along by respected mentors drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo, saxophonist Salim Washington and pianist Andile Yenana.

NAF 2019 Standard Bank Jazz Festival

Coco Zhao and more

From China comes the acclaimed composer and vocalist Coco Zhao (pictured right), whose sound connects the unique cross-section between Chinese traditional music, western classical music and jazz. At the festival, he presents compositions from his Dream Situation album, a project of rearranged 1920 – 1930’s traditional Shanghai songs reworked into a contemporary jazz framework, with the help of his touring pianist Huang Juanyi. Joining him is special guest vocalist Asanda Mqiki, bassist Romy Brauteseth and saxophonist Mthunzi Mvubu.

The SAMA award-winning 17-piece ZAR Jazz Orchestra, founded and directed by trumpeter Marcus Wyatt brings together some of the best jazz players across the country. Wyatt, no stranger to the big ensemble format, has chosen these top musicians who weave in elements of traditional South African jazz with contemporary approaches. Among them are saxophonist Sisonke Xonti, pianist Bokani Dyer, drummer Marlon Witbooi and Swiss trombonist Andreas Tschopp (Skyjack).

NAF 2019 Standard Bank Jazz Festival

Looking to draw connections between American jazz and its African roots, New York drummer Jeff “Siege” Siegel (who’s played with Ron Carter, Kenny Burrell and Ravi Coltrane) brings his sextet to our shores with his latest project, King of the Xhosa intended to celebrate these roots and exchanges that have shaped the jazz tradition. Joining him is iconic South African trumpeter Feya Faku (pictured left), to respond and add to this conversation.

Funk Big Band

On the subject of big ensembles, an annual signature feature of the festival is the Big Band, an all-star collaboration between local and international musicians, conducted by a different musician each year. This year showcases the Funk Big Band, presented by Swedish jazz legend, trombonist and composer Nils Landgren. He has been invited to Makhanda to perform for over a decade, and his accolades include featuring on over 500 recordings. The mega 18-piece band includes saxophonist Shannon Mowday, bassist Shaun Johannes and Swedish trumpeter Fredrik Noren.

Expanding to the rest of Africa, Nairobi Horns is a project that brings together musicians committed to building a sound around horns in African and contemporary music. Initially conceived off as a commercial horn section working on TV shows, the group has since grown into a live act inspired by jazz roots blending Kenyan folk with popular influences. The festival’s performance combines the four Kenyans with a strong rhythm section from South Africa, including local drummer Sphelelo Mazibuko.

NAF 2019 Standard Bank Jazz Festival

Maestri Susanna Stivali

Brazilian maestro pianist/accordionist, Guilherme Ribeiro and Dutch bassist Hein van de Geyn join forces with Cape Town-based acoustic duo Facing South which features guitarist David Ledbetter and vocalist Amanda Tiffin. The quartet will perform selections of original material with compositions from all members included. These will feature on an upcoming album release, recorded in Cape Town.

Wrapping up the collaborations, is maestri musicista (master musician), Susanna Stivali (pictured above), one of the best known Italian jazz singers of her generation. Aside from being an incredible vocalist, Stivali is also the artistic director of the Incontri Jazz Festival, a festival held in different archaeological locations across the centre of Italy. Her festival performance selects compositions from Italy, Brazil, America and South Africa, and features saxophonist Mike Rossi on sax among others.

For those keen on continuing late-night listening, the Standard Bank Jazz & Blues Café will host many of the local and international musicians featured at the NAF 2019 Standard Bank Jazz Festival for collaborative performances and jam sessions to wrap up the daily performances.

What: NAF 2019 Standard Bank Jazz Festival

Where and when: National Arts Festival, Makhanda from 27 June to 7 July 2019

Visit: NAF 2019 Programme