As so boisterously asserted by Marlene Le Roux (charismatic director of the Artscape Audience Development and Education) the media would have us believe that areas like Delft are filled merely with drug dens and crime. To believe this fallacy is to ignore the numerous positive initiatives found there. And if the Delft Big Band, under the leadership of Cape Town jazz guru Ian Smith, is any example there is a lot of talent to be juiced and brought to the surface for the world to see.
Having heard whispers about this band for a while now, I was excited to get the chance to see it in action. My heart sank a little as I watched the young, unassuming members of band walk on the stage looking like just another school band… but then I was blown away by a sound that was confident and professional from the first note to the last. Yes, the repertoire did contain some songs that are continually recycled on the school band circuit, but Smith’s inclusion of some talented young stars brought a good pinch of spice to each piece.
There was the passionate and dazzling 20 year old Dayna Pearce on saxophone and clarinet (she went to my high school but there is no bias here, the girl is talented), Matthew Ehrenreich (18), also on saxophone, who tackled some really technical solos with a softness and ease rarely heard in someone as young; and the rebellious Mark Williams (22) on guitar, the only person not wearing black, who played the funk and made the big guy behind shout out ‘Sies Kat!’ in exhilaration. Not forgetting the baby-faced but debonaire Lorenzo Blignaut (19) who made some big sounds on his trumpet. This youngster hit those high notes effortlessly, pulling the crowd along with him during roaring crescendos and accelerandos. And then there were the vocalists. Sandile Gontsana (26) smiles a lot. But why shouldn’t he? The man is classy with a soulfully smooth, subtle singing style that seamlessly blends with his flamboyant stage persona. Finally, the young Adelia Douw has confidence beyond her 17 years, claiming the entire stage – and audience – as her own as she tackled some big songs with her huge, husky voice.
But it wasn’t just the featured soloists who stood out. The entire band is praiseworthy. The drummer brought the goods from the first flashy solo to his final drum roll. Band soloists such as Taswell Conrad on the tenor sax shone just as bright as the featured guests. Ian Smith himself also decided to put down the baton and unleash some of his own musical magic and dance moves. With a leader who has so much passion for his trade, it’s no wonder that the Delft Big Band has grown from strength to strength.
The Delft Big Band deserves to continue for many years to come, and the young musicians that have the good fortune to be selected will take their talent to new heights. Jazz in Cape Town has a big future and these, its young stars, will go on getting brighter.
The Delft Big Band performed as part of the Artscape’s annual Youth Jazz Festival. Catch them at the Battle of the Youth Jazz Big Bands at the Artscape Theatre on 16 June at 3pm, and keep an eye on WhatsoninCapeTown.com for more performances.