MUSIC, like all creative industries, is driven by innovation. But innovation does not mean the same in every genre. In pop, success often hinges on a gimmick: catchy chorus words; a flavour appropriated unacknowledged from another tradition; Jack Parow’s giant baseball cap.
In jazz, things are different. An inspired improviser can tackle familiar material — the "standards" — and yet create something magically innovative at every performance. So although Tuesday’s first artist announcement for the 2013 Cape Town International Jazz Festival (April 5-6) contains repeat visitors, this does not mean predictable music.
The doyen of drummers, Jack de Johnette, has visited before, but not in this combination, celebrating the music of John Coltrane. De Johnette’s mind has been on Coltrane a lot recently (as in his current collaboration with McCoy Tyner at the Lincoln Centre) and work with the master’s saxophonist son, Ravi, and bassist Matt Garrison (son of Jimmy) will bring deep emotions as well as fresh visions to the stage.
When pianist Robert Glasper last visited he was an impressive newbie. Since then, he has grown as a player and sustained his fierce instrumental technique while reaching new audiences through collaborations with hip hop.
The South African fare is so far dominated by guitarists: Jimmy Dludlu, Errol Dyers and Reza Khota. Veteran bassist Victor Ntoni reappears in a revival of pianist Hilton Schilder’s exciting group Iconoclast, with Kaya Mahlangu.
There are some wholly new names: including Spanish pianist Chano Dominguez (allaboutjazz’s Ned Sublette said he incarnated "a music that, were its story told, would provide an entire parallel narrative to that of ‘classical’ music or ‘jazz’: words that are almost irrelevant to the living fact of music" ) and singer Gregory Porter. Given the audience enthusiasm for Kevin Mahogany last year, Porter will make a splash; his vision of the US male vocal tradition is rather edgier. The UK Guardian’s John Fordham credits him with "the spontaneous suppleness of a bebop improviser" and he composes too.
Yet the conservatism and nostalgia (acid jazzers the Brand New Heavies are billed) that can characterise the festival’s programming persists.
There’s no sign of exciting young local players such as trumpeters Lwanda Gogwana or Mandla Mlangeni. Women instrumentalists and composers, from our own Siya Makuzeni and Shannon Mowday to the US’s Nicole Mitchell are conspicuous by their absence.
The Blue Notes Tribute Orkestra, whose big, bold revisionings of Chris McGregor, Johnny Dyani and Dudu Pukwana demand exposure on a festival stage, remain unacknowledged. Glasper’s back, but we have still never heard five-category Downbeat award-winning pianist Vijay Iyer. We are due another artist announcement in January; fingers should be crossed but breath probably not held.
THIS week familiar performers are billed for Johannesburg — for example, Lira and Ringo Madlingozi at the Market Theatre on Thursday and Friday respectively — but most of the innovative live music will be heard in Cape Town.
The five-day GIPCA Live Arts festival opens on Friday in the Mother City: a series of events at various venues, mainly focused on dance but including new music from several composers including Julia Raynham. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Summer 2012 International Guitar Nights series begins at Kalk Bay’s Olympia Bakery on Saturday, anchored as usual by Tony Cox, but also introducing guitarists Natasha Meister and Canadian Joel Fafard. Fafard also presents a guitar workshop on Saturday morning at the Constantia Waldorf School from 10am. Details from email@example.com; bookings from Computicket.
Finally, as part of a very varied, jazz programme including Mozambican music from Kanimambo on Friday and pianist Afrika Mkhize on Saturday, on Sunday the Mahogany Room presents a one-off show from the Cape Town Punk Jazz Arkestra. This will be a single set of new original music starting at 8.30pm. The names are Cape Town’s usual suspects: Kesivan Naidoo, Kyle Shepherd, Buddy Wells, Sisonke Xonti and more — but the combination and the 10-piece concept are new and promise intriguing sounds.