(Reporting from Johannesburg).
Here is a quick rundown on what's happened at Standard Bank's Joy of Jazz Festival so far.
The official press conference was held Wednesday evening in a posh hotel in Johannesburg, with the mayor and other delegates of the city. Some of the musicians had begun to arrive. The organizers mentioned that they were also expecting a New Orleans delegation, and just in time, in walk David, Damon, Jamal and Ryan Batiste, as well as James Andrews and Kid Merv and their bands: it could not have happened better if it had been planned. Terence Blanchard had arrived before, and joined in. The conference went from a social event to a real party in no time.
Today, Thursday, the festival opened up with a living jazz legend: Cape Town-born pianist Abdullah Ibrahim and his band Ekaya. The arrangements were impecable and lyrical, and the solos were tasteful and restrained just so; it was an elegant, lovely way to start the fest in the hands of a master. The band featured, in part, Cleave Guyton on alto sax and flute, and Andrae Munchinson on trombone. A treat indeed for old fans and new.
Amina Figuerova had just finished her tour in San Francisco last week when she got the call to join the festival after it was learned that Ahmad Jamal had to cancel his appearance. Her band, which includes flautist Bart Platteau, took to the stage with confidence and played a set that featured her most recent work, the album "Twelve". Solid modern jazz performers with a flare for tight improvisation.
Terence Blanchard started his set in what was to become a vibrant closing act: he opened with "Magnetic" and had the crowd hanging on every note. When was the last time you saw him live? Terence will make you believe: Johannesburg just let themselves be taken over by his music. His band included Fabian Almazan on piano, Joshua Crumbly on bass, Brice Winston on sax and Kendrick Scott on drums. If this wasn't enough, guitarist Lionel Lueke was also in the line up.
It's late in Jo-burg and the first night of the festival has come to an end. Photos are coming soon. Stay tuned for more.