Tuesday, March 11, 2008

My gigs in South Africa

Last month I had a great time in South Africa - a hectic week of professional lectures and interviews, followed by a great weekend of fun, relaxation, and of course - Jazz.

Saturday night I had one of the most memorable jazz performances of my career at the venerable Rand Club in Johannesburg. I played with a formidable rhythm section, led by Dr. Marc Duby (a fellow professor, but of music!), Roland Moses (who played a Roland keyboard), and a gentle giant of a drummer, named Godfrey Mgcina (you need a Ph.D. just to pronounce his name!!). It has some kind of clucking sound in the middle. At one stage I asked whether he might mind changing it to "Cohen".

The place was packed with jazz lovers. The gig was co-organized by my friend the lawyer/bass player/festival organizer Henry Shields, and Robby Richardson, who manages the Rand Club. We did a repertoire of international tunes, including Ipanema (in Portuguese), Falling Leaves (in French), Besame Mucho, Bei mir bist do schoen (Yiddish) and the Dead Sea Blues, alongside classic American standards (There will never be another you, Love is here to stay, I've grown accustomed to her face, etc.).

The Rand Club is a kind of castle/museum/gentlemen's club, a throwback to the Victorian heydays of Johannesburg (probably then Jews weren't allowed membership, not to mention performing there). There is an amazing library of some 50,000 old books (I found a book of quite explicit 'merry' poems dating back to the eighteenth century). But mainly the place is largely deserted. I slept over two nights (they have three guest rooms), and shared my room with a strange moth. I was afraid to damage it, as the castle is supposedly overrun by ghosts, and you never know who a moth may really be. Dee, the wife of the excellent cook Tom, reassured me that the ghosts are mainly on the fourth and first floors. I was thankfully on the second floor (mind you, my microphone mysteriously rolled off the table for no good reason). The Rand in all its magnificence (and it is magnificent) is smack in the middle of the once fancy, but now somewhat run down downtown of Johannesburg. I didn't dare venture more than twenty steps from the entrance. To ward off any danger in South Africa, I was accompanied throughout by the most fierce, ferocious bodyguards one could imagine. And I have the pics to prove it!

Sunday morning I flew to Capetown for yet another performance, organized by Henry at his restaurant, the Marimba. Again the rhythm section was impeccable – Andrew Lilley on the grand piano, Prof. Mike Campbell (another professor of jazz!) on bass guitar, and Ivan Bell on drums. Mike and I joined forces to compose a song entitled "It's so good being bad with you" which I sang in both venues (You can listen to it on my Hebrew blog).

We had another lovely evening in Capetown as well, you can get an idea of the fun from the following recording:

(On this one Henry sits in on bass).

Jazz is a language, and when you meet musicians you can communicate with, things happen. Many thanks to Henry and Robbie for organizing, the warm audiences in both venues, and the great musicians I got to meet and play with.

No comments: