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Review: Shane Cooper Album Launch At The Mahogany Room


For 27 year old Shane Cooper, 2013 has been a great year.  Not only did the jazz bassist grace the front cover of the National Arts Festival magazine, but he also scooped the Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year Award.  And as if that wasn’t enough, Cooper also produced a debut album, Oscillations, with fellow bassist/composer Carlo Mombelli.

Although each of his band members is already a ‘jazz name’ in Cape Town, nonetheless the album reflects the fact that Cooper’s desire is to make good music rather than to take the spotlight ahead of his collaborators. The 10 instrumental tracks on the album – all composed by Cooper – each allows space for major solos from Bokani Dyer (piano, electric organ), Kesivan Naidoo (drums, cymbals, cowbell), Reza Khota (guitar), Justin Bellairs (alto saxophone) and Buddy Wells (tenor saxophone).

Oscillations gives the listener a generous serving of good South African jazz which was dished up hot and fresh at the album’s launch in the cosy Mahogany Room in the form of a 90 minute set. Hot spicy jazz all the way through.

Cooper opened the show with a solo that was nothing short of brilliant.  With intricate skill and ease, he played to the point where it looked as though it must have hurt. But to this proficient bassist, zeal and passion clearly override pain.

The whole band then swept us away on an entrancing exploration of styles linked together by a jazz thread. The passion captured on the album was evident in their faces as they played, joyfully oblivious to the sweat pouring off them.  The saxophonists in particular held some notes so long that one could have sworn the air in the increasingly intimate Mahogany Room was being sucked from our very lungs.

Fellow Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year (2011), pianist Bokani Dyer in particular stood out with his breathtakingly vibrant keyboard work that, in his own words, takes him to “a different state of being”.  Kesivan Naidoo on the drums was also a revelation, responsible for laying the foundation for some amazing build ups.  The audience certainly felt that that Naidoo and Dyer together were the powerhouse of the band, as could be told by their cheers.

Because jazz is never predictable, it was hard to know how these musicians would sound live in comparison to the album.  But live or recorded it is clear that the interaction shared by these six men, when paired with their supreme skill and passion, makes them seem as one mind.

Shane Cooper’s abilities are far beyond his tender age, and his vision in composing and producing this outstanding album which captures six jazz dynamos so early in their careers begs the question – where will he be taking jazz music? In Oscillations, Cooper sets the standard very high not only for jazz, but for music as a whole.

Lauren Vogt

The launch of Shane Cooper’s album, Oscillations, took place at the Mahogany Room on 22 August 2013.

The album is available from




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