The ability to share stories is one of humanity’s most cherished means of achieving unity, whether within a family, a community, or across all cultures around this blue world. Music is a medium which can transcend even the boundaries of the spoken word in bringing people together. In two fine Capetonian musicians, bassist Jonathan Rubain and alto saxophonist Don Vino Prins, the Baxter concert hall witnessed a showcase which, in its capacity, captured the attention of the audience and allowed them to feel and experience the sounds which came forth as a united front, sharing the emotions of the artists on stage.
The unique sound of the duo was evident from the first wave of notes emitted from their instruments. Rubain plays the bass almost completely as a soloist, executing unison melodies with Prins’ saxophone. The two voices formed one singular entity which remained secure throughout the performance, thanks to a flawlessly matched phrasing and articulation. The two are clearly comfortable on stage, no doubt well-groomed in the art by the masters with whom they had the privilege of working. So at home are they in fact that one feels almost as if the show is taking place in a living room, with close friends who are giving accounts of their musical life.
The musical influences of Intimate Nights are broad, ranging from jazz to R&B as well as CapeJazz styles such as Goema. The overall sound is warm, anchored by solid bass grooves executed by one of the keyboard players. Bright synth brass infiltrates the mix, well placed to heighten the intensity of certain songs. Prins at one point took centre stage to convey his interpretation of the classic tune ‘Change the World’. His strong, overtone rich, almost silky tone soared above the band, yet there was a great fellowship in his presence. The hierarchy leader role does not apply to Prins who always takes pains to feature his band members and relish in their creative output.
Rubain then lent his vocal talents to an original song called ‘Reason to Smile’. Catchy hooks, tight riffs and sophisticated chord changes culminated in a song which was greatly received by the audience, especially when Candice Thornton joined her wonderfully phrased vocals to the song. The audience began to chant the chorus with the vocalists, the jubilant atmosphere electrified with the sense of unity.
Prins and Rubain took a few moments to talk about their careers and the influential people in their lives including David Kramer and the late Taliep Petersen. Their original songs have inspiration in family and the ideals they share.
After hearing a collection of tunes with similar subject matter, the stage came to life with an up-tempo number which was given a fresh touch with the surprise entrance of three Kaapse Klopse dancers, a very entertaining addition to the show. The energy continued with Rubain and Prins initiating a duel, each vying to outdo the other in who could entice the audience with better known love songs. Each sauntered up the aisles and engaged with the audience who stood and cheered them on, acknowledging their efforts in thunderous applause.
Intimate Nights’ overall appeal was twofold; the musicianship on stage was inspiring, with a marvellous command of the instruments and regard to tone and expression. Secondly and probably most significantly, the total audience involvement, the unified enjoyment of the music and the reciprocation of the ideas and moods expressed. We look forward to chapter three.
Gareth Harvey is a performing saxophonist and music solutions manager at Octave Leap Music.
Intimate Nights Chapter Two with Jonathan Rubain and Don Vino Prins took place at the Baxter Concert Hall on 21 June 2014.