The Classic Jazz Masters are one of Joburg’s more attractive institu-tions. They formally came into existence in 1988, and still include two of the original members: Bob Wade on trumpet and Roy Burrows on woodwinds. Back in the sixties and seventies, South Africa was well served by Dixieland jazz bands (or ‘Trad’, as we Poms would have said.) Today, as far as I am aware, they are the last remaining Highveld band of this genre.
This concert was organised by Tony Yoko at the Auto & General Thea-tre on the (Mandela) Square, on a Sunday afternoon, and was a sell-out weeks before it took place. The band took the stage in natty waistcoats. This concert was to launch their new CD: Jazz Roots. In keeping with that theme, numbers ranged from Scott Joplin’s ragtime Maple Rag, from the late 1800s, up to just pre-World War Two, focussing primarily on the 1920s and 1930s, and exclusively American ‘Dixie.’ Other clas-sic numbers included Kid Ory’s Muskrat Ramble, Spencer Williams’ Basin Street Blues, Billy Goat Stomp by Jelly Roll Morton, and a couple of Duke Ellington numbers such as East Street Toodle Oo, and Caravan, which worked superbly well as Dixie, for all they started life in the Duke’s big band format.
The core line up is a sextet, the other ‘horn’ being Speedy Kobak on trombone, and a back office of Sasha Sonnbichler on guitar and banjo, Cecil Ferreira on double bass and Steve Wade on drums. For this con-cert, they were augmented by Dave Cousens on piano and Hannah Fos-ter on vocals, who fitted in ‘as to the manner born.’
And boy, do they swing; from the opening number, the audience were cheering for more, making it difficult for the band to close the concert. We were even treated to a ‘marching band’ moment with everyone but the bass and drums leaving ‘auditorium, back right’, rather than ‘stage left’, to reappear shortly later for the final encore. The audience is de-veloping the character of a bunch of familiar old friends, and I’m sure the same faces will be queuing for the next ‘not to be missed’ perform-ance.