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Cape Jazz Festival unveils 2012 musical gems

Jazz enthusiasts no longer have to hold their breath with the final announcement of artists for the 2012 Cape Town International Jazz Festival announced at Katzy's in Rosebank, Johannesburg. This year's Cape Town International Jazz Festival will take place on March 30 and 31. In its 13th year, the festival continues to titillate South African audiences with the finest in local and international performers at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC). The headliners reflect the festival's philosophy of broadening audience's perspectives of what is understood as 'jazz'.

"If it's music, sweet music, lets it play," is the philosophy of Jamaican-hailing reggae band Third World - one of the headliner acts aimed at bridging these divides. Originally formed in 1973 in Kingston, Third World has over its three-decade spanning career interwoven subtleties of funk, soul, R&B and rock into reggae music, releasing 23 albums in total. They are one of Jamaica's longest running acts which means that they easily bumped heads with the likes of Bob Marley and the Wailers early in their career. Third World will make their South African debut at this year's festival, firing up their message of peace, love and unity.

Brooklyn-based multi-instrumentalist and producer, Marcus Miller, is another major artist who headlines the festival. While Millers' main instrument is bass, his prolific work started in the late 70s. He has worked as an arranger, songwriter, film score composer, keyboardist, clarinetist and saxophonist. A live set from Miller can include an odd mix of anything from The Talking Heads to John Coltrane and The Stylistics. Miller was born at a time when jazz was peaking in New York. He was part of a musical family which made becoming a multi-instrumentalist in his teenage years natural. Some of his best known work is with Miles Davis during the early 80's, working on the albums Tutu and Music from Siesta. He has an epic background of musical accolades and as a session musician has worked with the likes of Michael Jackson, Wayne Shorter, Chaka Khan and Aretha Franklin.

Harlem born songwriter and vocalist Patti Austin and her trio will tour her Grammy award-winning jazz program which includes hits ranging from Ella Fitzgerald to Avant Gershwin. Austin has a legacy of 16 solo albums which cross musical boundaries. Her road to success was paved early as she made her debut at the Apollo Theatre in 1954 at the age of four and had a contract with RCA Records when she was five. Keeping the musical fires burning, The Patti Austin Trio's festival performance will form part of a massive 2012 European tour with new album Sound Advice.

Completing the headliners of international performers is Kansas City-born vocalist Kevin Mahogany. New Yorker Magazine has labelled him "The Standout jazz vocalist of his generation". Starting off his career as an instrumentalist, Mahogany has focused his career on being a jazz vocalist in the style of Joe Williams. Currently he runs his own label called Mahogany Jazz.

The legendary Quincy Jones is responsible for discovering and introducing Cuban pianist Alfredo Rodriguez to the festival organisers. The impromptu performance of Rodriguez in Jones' lounge for organisers Rashid Lombard and Billy Domingo convinced the pair that Rodriguez was a natural fit for the festival. Jones says "I'm thrilled that Alfredo has been given a platform to perform at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival. I think he will find surprising musical similarities between his roots in Cuba and his South African experience."

Other international performers at the festival include Chinese minimalist solo pianist Xia Jia and French bossa nova meets nu-wave act Nouvelle Vague. Joining them is Allen Stone, a storytelling guitarist and singer from Washington who could be described as a funky white boy with soul. Angolan afro-funk singer and composer Gabriel Tchiema completes the line-up of international acts.

Audiences will be thrilled to see legendary South African trumpeter and bandleader Hugh Masekela return to the festival and present a special project for the first time on local shores. Masekela will rally up an army of musical giants for 'MAMA AFRICA' - a tribute to the great songbird Miriam Makeba. Masekela as musical director joins forces with a powerhouse trio of vocalists in the form of Vusi Mahlasela, Thandiswa Mazwai and Zolani Mahola. The show made its debut at the Rio Loco Festival in Toulouse, France in June 2010 and has since travelled to Barcelona, London and Berlin.

Masekela won't be the only South African legend on stage this year. Dorothy Masuka will also perform at the festival. Masuka rose to fame in the 50's as a struggle artist as a singer alongside the likes of Masekela and Makeba.

If the edgiest music that is coming out of South Africa at the moment is hip-hop, then the festival has been spot on with the talent this year. HHP aka Hip Hop Pantsula and Cape Town's own swag-boasting Ill Skillz aka Ill Literate Skill join the line-up. HHP is a multi-SAMA award-winning rapper and alongside Ill Skillz represent fresh and youthful South African voices.

There is a huge focus on African roots and rhythms on the festival line-up this year. Pietermaritzburg born saxophonist Steve Dyer has been on the South African music scene for some time but he has constantly evolved musically. His latest project Ubuntu Music will be released as an album this year and performed at the festival for the first time. His band features pianist Bokani Dyer, bassist Shaun Johannes, trumpeter Lwanda Gogwana and drummer Andre Swartz. In a similar vein, South African bassist Herbie Tsoaeli, who has performed with some of SA's greatest jazz musicians, will be presenting his long-awaited debut album African Time. Harmonica player Adam Glasser has spent significant time between South Africa and the United Kingdom, collaborating with major artists from both countries such as Dudu Pukwana and Toots Thielemens. Glasser will present his latest album Mzansi at the festival. Cape Town-based saxophonist Victor Kula grew up in Rylands and now resides in Gugulethu. He has kept his musical associations proudly local and is greatly influenced by the late Winston 'Mankunku' Ngozi. Hassan'adas led by percussionist John Hassan experiments with Marrabenta and African jive rhythms

Old school glitz and glamour diva Sophia Foster, one of SA's sisters of song also joins the line-up. Another kind of diva, ex-fashion stylist Lindiwe Suttle initiated her career as a vocalist with Rus Nerwich and The Collective Imagination in 2008. Now Suttle has returned from Berlin with a more electronic focus on her debut album Kamikaze Art courtesy of engineer Dave Kutch whose previous work includes Al Green and Alicia Keys.

Zakes Bantwini has himself confessed that his live performance launches a wilder alter-ego, "Zakhele Madida (his real name) is actually a shy guy and a bit reserved. When I 'm on stage I am in a trance and the Zakes Bantwini character takes over. He just comes out." Bantwini is one of the few South African artists who has managed to cross the boundary of afro-house and live jazz. Radio personality, Idols judge, singer and songwriter Unathi will also perform at the festival. Fans can expect new material from Unathi since she recently released her third album With Love.

As previously announced, the rest of the line-up for 2012 is completed by the following artists: James Ingram (USA), Dave Koz with special guest Patti Austin (USA), Mike Stern with special guest Dave Weckl (USA), Virtual Jazz Reality (SA), Brubecks play Brubeck (USA/SA), Ron Carter, Donald Harrison and Lenny White (USA), Andre Petersen Quintet (SA), Atmosphere (USA), Jean Grae (USA), Goodluck (SA), Zamajobe (SA), Zahara (SA), The Jason Reolon Trio (SA), David Sanchez with special guest Lionel Loueke (Puerto Rico/Benin), The Moreira Project (Mozambique) and Alexander Sinton High School Jazz Band (SA).

A massive affirmation regarding the artistic and cultural importance of the jazz festival was President Jacob Zuma's mention of the festival in his State of the Nation speech last year. Over 34 000 tourists are attracted to the festival annually. Mr Paul Mashatile, Minister of Arts and Culture comments on the relevance of the festival, "The Cape Town International Jazz Festival does not only expose audiences to a wide array of the best international and local music, the event also contributes to providing a larger skills base in the creative sector which helps in sustaining the creative industries in South Africa." Aside from contributing a significant amount to South Africa's economic and tourism industries, young journalists are nurtured in the annual Arts Journalism Program led by jazz critic Gwen Ansell.

Developmental programs where students and professionals are paired is key to the festivals outlook. Each year the festival provides a series of workshops which run over eight days aimed at developing methods and transferring skills in terms of music and business. Dr Ivan Meyer, Minister of Cultural Affairs and Sport in the Western Cape comments, "Musical talent is vital to the success of these kinds of events, and music development programmes for the youth, such as those funded by the Western Cape Government, are the perfect platform to grow and nurture talent."

Celebrating not only musical creativity, but visual creativity too, The Duotone Photographic Exhibition is another annual fixture of the festival. Every year it commemorates prolific jazz photography.

One of the most exciting elements to the festival is the annual free Community Concert which brings thousands together in the centre of Cape Town on Green Market Square. This year the concert will take place on March 28th, the Wednesday preceding the festival. The line-up is usually a teaser of some of the local and international acts that will feature at the festival.

The festival has over the years garnered huge provincial support from the Western Cape. Minister Alan Winde, MEC for Finance, Economic Development and Tourism for the Western Cape comments, "The Western Cape Government is pleased to be associated with an event of this calibre that draws artists from across the globe and we look forward to yet another spectacular show." Patricia De Lille, Executive Mayor of Cape Town echoes this sentiment, "This musical celebration epitomises what this administration aims to do in building an inclusive city by bringing together people from diverse backgrounds throughout the city and the rest of the country to enjoy the musical talents of local artists and renowned international superstars. The City will continue to support this festival to promote the heritage of jazz music and ensure that it continues to attract large crowds."

The gold sponsor for the Cape Town International Jazz Festival 2012 is the Department of Arts and Culture. Other sponsors include Provincial Government of the Western Cape, The City of Cape Town, Cape Town Routes Unlimited, Oude Meester, Hansa Pilsner, Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, Cape Town Partnership and the Western Cape Education Department.

Tickets for the festival are R400 for a single day pass and R550 for a two-day weekend pass. As in previous years, there is an additional fee of R30 per act for performances at the Rosies stage.

Tickets are available at Computicket and Shoprite-Checkers stores.

For more information visit www.capetownjazzfest.com.