As usual, they start without introduction:
a rolling interplay between guitar and bass, Jephta coming in after setting the ball downhill
rising rapid to blow out
Kyle holding tight, fingers inside and out
holding that middle string.
And off again, electric
drums flaring, horns blowing in
Jephta riding and pushing the wave
keeping Keenan surfing on those strings
driving from the back
Keys and trumpet now, rolling in tandem
Wyatt wailing soft and high and
drum and bass driving it deep
Marcus pushing back up
and swimming to the top
subterranean sounds washing across.
That was two parts of a three-part suite, says Jephta. The player of the moment, Standard
Bank Young Artist for Jazz, leader of the band.
As they go silent to a count, poised to move into track three, a cellphone rings in the front row.
They wait. No comment. They begin.
Jephta back on the big double bass, pushing Wyatt on the trumpet duo.
It’s a classic, constructionist piece.
Kyle comes in, backed by the beat and the drum
Jephta running up and down the bass
duhm dhumdhum dhum dhum dhumdhumdhum
then falling through a crack breaking up again
horn sailing out
over and along
all stepping over the abyss, together
single note repeating on Sisonke’s sax
everything breaking around it
return to melody
then sliding down to run on a staccato percussion
keys just holding, rolling rolling this ship over land
back into the harbour of silence.
In his ripped black jeans, sneakers, collar and blazer, neatly rolled dreads pulled back, Jephta gives thanks, acknowleges his parents in the front row and dedicates the next track, ‘Gratitude’ to them.
Echoes of Amazing Grace in it’s opening, but razor electric sharp on Keenan’s guitar,
Jephta coming in softer on the electric bass, following the piano but soon taking over into a
blistering solo, teeth bared in a Stevie Wonder-grimace of concentration, mouthing his
instrument’s sounds to himself.
It rises in volume, the rest of the sestet coming back in and then going off in different
directions, expanding, stretching then dropping back on the bass, with Kyle just rolling
those pebbles, rolling those pebbles.
All too soon we’re on the last number, ‘Evolution’, the title track on his new album available
at the venue but not out in the stores yet.
Here it goes:
all percussion and bass Kyle with his hand on the hammers again
deep Dollar Brand bass echoes against Mazibuko’s sharp knock drum
machine gun bursts on the
horns lowing long notes
bass strings off the double between
Kyle Benjamin Sphelelo a formidable back row
so sharp so fast so precise always there
trumpet and sax play at odds
Jephta moves over to electric bass
Marcus lifting it an lilting it
fragile offbeat holding precisely
blues interludes on the bass
sounds turning over themselves
Outside the gig everyone’s got the tune going, ba ba bada babap…
Benjamin Jeptha is the Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz 2017. Playing with him were Sisonke Xonti on sax, Marcus Wyatt on trumpet, Keenan Ahrends on guitar, Kyle Shepherd on piano and Sphelelo Mazibuko on drums.
Jephta presents ‘Akoustik Elektrik’ at the Standard Bank Jazz festival on Friday 7 July (book here), and check the programme for various lineups featuring these musos.