James Morrison and Funk! Straight on or funked up – they hollered just as loud

James Morrison does a duet on his own. Pictures: GARY HORLER

STRAIGHT or funked up jazz, it did not matter to festinoes who hollered, stomped their shoes and beat their palms in joy at two different concerts at the Standard Bank Jazz festival on Wednesday night.

The big name was Australian James Morrison and his quartet. Introduced as the greatest multi instrument-playing jazzo in the world by director Alan Webster, Morrison bounced and bobbed his way through trumpet and and trombone pieces and showed amazing virtuosity on the ivories.

At the end he played trumpet in one hand, replying with trombone in the other.

Morrison’s range was extraordinary. On trumpet we got soft, rasping drawn-out sweet notes  and then pigs squealing at a riot. He would bop over to the piano where romped and rolled, once hitting it so hard that he leapt off his chair, releasing a shriek of pleasure from the audience. It was classy, flawless and came with it’s own brand of classical jazz theatre.

The band wore sharp dark suits with rich red and mauve ties. “James says we have to outdress the audience,” said phenomenal 21-year-old Sydney drummer, Patrick Danao.

His drum solos blew the house away.

But the bigger surprise, perhaps, was the earlier session, “Funk!” It’s a clever idea to put a master like Amsterdam guitarist and composer Anton Goudsmit in front, because he did a brilliant job at bringing forward the two young South Africans who blew up the house and stole the show.

Shannon Mowday was simply gorgeous. Her ripped shoulders and hourglass shimmying figure created a marvelous visual offset against the coolest-of-cool bassist, Benjamin Jeptha, whose dreads were frozen in hipster pose while his fingers sprinted over the strings.

Shanon Mowday

Jeptha is this year’s Standard Bank young artist of the year winner for jazz, and Mowday was last year’s.

Mowday’s love of performance lit up the night, her hand punching out a note, a little lift of the knee, and did I say, that awesome shimmy ‘n shake?

The audience screamed as if singed by the devil’s bellows and you could feel the stolid walls of DSG’s old Lilla Strong hall wake, move and grind its hips.


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