The Big Band Festival Is Coming To Tshwane

Two more exciting international names have been added to the world-class lineup of headline jazz musicians performing at the inaugural Tshwane International Big Band Festival, hosted by the Jazz Foundation of South Africa. US saxophonist Billy Harper and trombonist Steve Turre are bringing their unique styles of music to the event, which is creating much excitement among South African jazz fans. PLUS, we're giving away four double tickets to this awesome festival! Enter below.

“We are delighted to welcome the global talents of Billy Harper and Steve Turre to our stage. While their presence will add further depth and dimension to an already exciting programme, it is unfortunate that we also have to announce the withdrawal of Kenny Garrett due to ill health,” says Oupa Salemane, CEO of the Jazz Foundation of SA.

“We were looking forward to showcasing Kenny’s wonderful talent to our local jazz audiences, and it is a real pity that he is not able to perform at this festival. However, we are confident that our strong lineup of headline artists, and the programme we have put together, will offer two days of big band sound and unique jazz collaborations never before experienced in South Africa.”

Billy Harper, the renowned American saxophonist, is also adding his name and his blend of spiritual and traditional music to the lineup of great musical talent on offer at the Tshwane International Big Band Festival. His unique music creativity was first noted in Houston, Texas, where, at age five, he was singing at functions and participating in choral and solo singing events. By age 14, he formed his first Billy Harper Quintet while still a student at Evan E. Worthing High School.

Graduating cum laude, he went on to study saxophone and music theory at North Texas State University and received his Bachelor of Music degree. He continued graduate studies at NTSU and became a member of their "big band". That year, 1965, the university's big band won first prize at the Kansas Jazz Festival.

Throughout Harper's career, there has been a pattern of spiritual growth and innovation. "My feeling is that music should have a purpose. In the past, it always has been used for healing and uplifting and meditation. And that's the way I see my music. I've had people come up after a programme to tell me that they felt a spiritual healing from the music. When that happens, then I feel we're fulfilling what we're supposed to do. If people are entertained, that's okay too. But I certainly see a purpose in my music beyond that,” says Harper.

Trombonist and composter Steve Turre has long been lauded as one of the modern champions of his instrument. He occupies a unique patch of real estate in the art form as a virtuoso trombonist with a specialty in playing and making sea shells as an ancestral Aztecan birthright instrument, as a composer, arranger, bandleader and educator, as one who straddles the perceived boundaries of Jazz, Big Band, Latin Jazz and R&B/Funk, and as a session player who has held down the ‘bone’ chair in the Saturday Night Live television show band for three decades.

“I’ve always felt that music is about giving,” Turre states in explanation of his Spiritman concept and his philosophy of music in general. “You give of your life force through your instrument to create a vibration that can heal. In that sense, a musician is like a doctor: the more you give of yourself, the better you can make people feel. Within every culture music is a vital part of people’s nature yet each culture is different. Jazz brings a lot of those elements together, drawing from many sources. It’s the first world music.”

The event takes place on two stages at Freedom Park in Tshwane, on the evenings of 08 and 09 December. The brainchild and initiative of the Jazz Foundation, the festival is aimed at transforming the status quo and ushering in a new paradigm in the live jazz music entertainment genre in South Africa. The big band concept is based on a model that brings together groups of accomplished, world-class headline artists, both local and from abroad, who share the stage with a group of talented, local jazz musicians who create the Big Band sound. The symphonic orchestra will add its Eurocentric colour and sound to the traditional Big Band Jazz orchestra. This unique performance format is set to break the mould of live music performance as we know it. Playing alongside Billy Harper and Steve Turre are a strong lineup of headliners. These include local jazz luminaries Caiphus Semenya, Madala Kunene, Herbie Tsoaeli, Simphiwe Dana, Nduduzo Makhathini, Feya Faku and Marcus Wyatt. Also performing on the two stages over the two-day festival are a foreign contingent comprising USA-based jazz artists Stefon Harris and Salim Washington, and Dutch national, Paul Van Kamenade. The artists will perform with the all-star Big Band.

As the lineup suggests, the Tshwane International Big Band Festival promises to be a memorable live music event, both in content and with the quality of the performances. The artists billed to perform boast a mind-boggling combined number of years in the industry, producing and performing music at the highest level internationally and locally. The festival will deploy two stages: an indoor 500-seat arrangement as well as an outdoor amphitheatre that seats 2000 guests. Tickets are now on sale through Computicket with a one-day pass available for R500 and a two-day pass at R650. The Tshwane International Big Band Festival, brought to you by the Jazz Foundation of SA, National Lotteries Commission, 702 and Tiso Blackstar, takes place on 08 and 09 December at 19:00 and 18:30 respectively, at Freedom Park in Tshwane.

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