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Saturday, July 8, 2017


(James Morrison)

Those who were in attendance can count themselves very lucky to have experienced something very special. (Review by Keith Millar)

The headline act at the Standard Bank Jazz Festival in Grahamstown this year was James Morrison, Australia’s greatest jazz musician, and his quartet. Regarded as the world’s most versatile multi-instrumentalist, Morrison has performed on the trumpet, soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone saxophones, clarinet, flugelhorn, bass trumpet, trombone, euphonium, tuba, double bass, guitar and piano.

During his career, he has collaborated with many musical legends including the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles, B B King, Frank Sinatra, Ray Brown, George Benson and Quincy Jones. He is also an arranger and composer of international renown.

Morrison’s first love is big band jazz and for his second concert at the Festival, he and his quartet appeared with the Festival Big Band. This group was assembled from some of South Africa’s top jazz musicians and was led by Fredrik Noren, leader of the Stockholm Jazz Orchestra.

Morrison restricted himself on the night to playing only trumpet (his main instrument), trombone and tenor sax.

The James Morrison Quartet also features his sons, William on guitar and Harry on bass, along with the very talented Patrick Danao on drums.

The DSG Hall was packed to the rafters for this concert as many of the youngsters who were part of the Standard Bank National Youth Jazz Festival squeezed in. It was a wildly excited audience and they were treated to a Big Band Jazz master class. Morrison is a phenomenal musician. His performance on all three instruments was breath-taking and astonishing.

The rest of the musicians seemed to feed off his energy and the synergy and skill they displayed was staggering. All of them played superbly and took advantage of their solo breaks to display wonderful skills. None more so than Bokani Dyer on piano and Patrick Danao on drums.

The band played an assortment of standards such as Georgia On My Mind, All Of Me, I’m Getting Sentimental Over You, A Wonderful World and a rousing version of Duke Ellington’s Caravan, plus several of Morrison’s own compositions.

Morrison who is also a radio and TV presenter (Top Gear, believe it or not) is a most amusing host. He had the audience in stitches while recounting his musical adventures or just dishing out one-liners. It was better than some stand-up comedians.

That this was a world class concert there can be no doubt. Those who were in attendance can count themselves very lucky to have experienced something very special.

One can only hope that James Morrison accepts the invitation to visit the National Arts festival again next year. – Keith Millar

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