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Review: South Africa’s Joy of Jazz Festival

Unexpected syntheses

Feya Faku, Joy of Jazz Festival, South Africa 2014
Kyle Shepherd, Joy of Jazz Festival, South Africa 2014
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, Joy of Jazz Festival, South Africa 2014
Dianne Reeves, Joy of Jazz Festival, South Africa 2014
Duduza Makhathini, Joy of Jazz Festival, South Africa 2014
Gregory Porter, Joy of Jazz Festival, South Africa 2014
Herbie Tsoaeli, Joy of Jazz Festival, South Africa 2014
Omar Sosa, Joy of Jazz Festival, South Africa 2014
Richard Bona at the Joy of Jazz Festival, South Africa 2014.
Roy Hargrove, Joy of Jazz Festival, South Africa 2014

The strongest moments at the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz Festival in Johannesburg, South Africa, last weekend involved unexpected synthesis-musical, cultural, suggestive. South African jazz, if it can be defined, is an art of stretchings and combinations, asking how far one heritage can slide into another before the DNA mutates. Where does new strategy become new form?

Kyle Shepherd, a 27-year-old pianist on the rise in South Africa, used his trio’s set on Saturday to link the rolling music of Cape Town’s urban flatlands with a ruminative poise, like Brad Mehldau’s and Jason Moran’s, adding ideas from Indian classical music. On the speedy “Flying Without Leaving the Ground,” his trio gained momentum over a tala-like, five-beat cycle that offered no moments of resolution. The trumpeter and flugelhorn player Feya Faku, whose quartet makes music with few but tangled parts, drew delicately from a different kind of cape lilt while also looking northward, to Scandinavian jazz. His remarkable young pianist Nduduzo Makhatini built moments of splayed density, and Faku cut through them.

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