Blowing The Blues Away
If anyone still thinks that the blues is only about the sort of bad times portrayed by Mose Allison’s One Room Country Shack with its heartfelt plea ‘I’m gonna find me some kinda companion even if she’s dumb, deaf, crippled and blind’, Friday night’s concert at The Theatre on the Square in Johannesburg would soon have dispelled that illusion!
After Producer Tony Yoko briefly introduced visiting Belgian artists Dirk van der Linden (Hammond, piano and guitar) and Jean van Lint (double bass, vocals and sometime pianist), things quickly got down and dirty with Jimmy Smith’s Back at the Chicken Shack, with Dirk on the Hammond, Jean rock solid on bass, and Justin Holcroft (tenor), origi-nally from the UK and Pretoria-based Vinnie Henrico (drums) proving once again that our local boys are up there with the best overseas play-ers.
The versatility of the visitors made a lasting impression, with Dirk’s swinging piano reminiscent of Oscar Peterson and Red Garland, his sympathetic guitar playing a perfect foil for the singers, and the Hammond proving just what a great jazz instrument it can be in the right hands. Jean’s bass playing could not be faulted, his singing highly indi-vidual in style (whilst phrasing and scatting like Mel Torme — with just a touch of Mark Murphy — at times), and his occasional percussive pi-ano pushing the front line ever forward.
With guest appearances by veteran blues guitarist Mike Slavin, singers Cat Simone and newcomer Nandie Mnyani, who showed great promise, we were treated to an evening of mostly blues-based standards, with a few originals thrown in. Standouts were Michael’s Jackson’s Billie Jean (stunning soprano solo by Justin), U2’s I still haven’t found what I’m lookin’ for, both sung by Jean, an original Snake Blues inspired by a reptile Dirk claimed Tony keeps in his garden, and for me, the highlight of the evening, Route 66.
This was taken at a slightly slower tempo than Nat ‘King’ Cole’s clas-sic version on After Midnight but swung like the clappers with Jean do-ing the honours to the lyric and great solos by Dirk, Justin and Mike.
As one left the theatre after clapping and singing along to the encore Until the world is feeling better, one was left with an overwhelming ‘feel-good’ impression of ‘The Joy of Jazz’ when it all comes together. Bearing in mind that the visitors had only met the ‘locals’ the day before and therefore had little time to rehearse, the rapport amongst all con-cerned was obvious and the musicians mutual enjoyment of, and admi-ration for, what they were doing, was a tribute both to their professional-ism, and more importantly, their love of the genre.
What a pleasure, after listening to so many players on the contempo-rary jazz scene today who are ‘full of sound and fury, signifying noth-ing’.
As we’ve said before, more of the same please Tony, and to Daphne Kuhn, let The Theatre on the Square continue to be a showcase for this sort of music. David Alston