It’s taken forever to get this post written. The festival is a far off and vague memory. In terms of energy, staying awake on Day 6 was a demanding task. One workshop that stood out for me was Jason Reolon’s Professionalism in Music,  where I proceeded to ask a bunch of questions.

Monday, 2nd July

Jason Reolon – Professionalism in Music

Jason Reolon

“If you’re not cool to work with and you’re a good musician…that don’t mean shit!”

Jason Reolon is an accomplished jazz pianist and lecturer at UCT College of Music.  I’d mentioned in a previous post that Double Standards – a jazz mash-up that featured two rhythm sections was done with a great deal of finesse and that Jason’s workshop on Space in Music was very informative. I wasn’t about to miss out on something that could possibly enrich my career and expand my horizons.

For a workshop aimed at professionalism, I ironically rocked up to the venue 5 minutes late as I thought it was happening at another class room. With a subdued “Very Unprofessional” I entered the class to a bunch of giggles while Jason gave me the resolute look that said, “Urmm…Unprofessional Musician”.

Now, maybe I’m exaggerating here but it was something like that. Nonetheless I thought I absorbed enough from the learning experience to share it here.

According to Jason, there are a few major points that an aspiring professional musician should keep in mind:

  • Punctuality: In the corporate world, musicians are notorious for arriving late at events/meetings etc. In addition, band members often arrive late for rehearsals and sound checks. Professional musicians know that punctuality is paramount to getting booked to play at gigs and recording studios.
  • Repertoire: Professionals ‘check out’ the repertoire for upcoming events immediately upon receiving it. Preparation is vital.
  • Dress Code: Musicians generally wear black at events unless otherwise stated by the event organiser. Presentation is also vital.
  • Administration: This includes managing emails, contracts, invoices and whatever else is necessary in handling the day to day business of being a professional musician. On the topic of contracts, Jason recommends that transparency is important in keeping everyone involved in the know. Matters should be agreed upon before hand. With regard to services rendered for a live gig or studio, one should insist on a 50% deposit up front and the other 50% after the show is over. Restaurant owners are infamous for not paying, even when they have agreed to do so.
  • Good Attitude: “Reputation is really all that you have. If you’re difficult to work with, you can’t be booked. Skill is not the deciding point. If you’re not cool to work with and you’re a good musician…that don’t mean shit!” Some guys just have the smelliest attitudes. Band leaders prefer working with ego-less, humble musicians who are accommodating of others – with regard to personality and actual playing. In case of a difficult player, Jason strives to “be the Better Man”.
  • Live Performance: Always have a good sound check to ensure the sound balance is correct. At many venues, volume is an issue, so it is imperative to spend enough time at sound check getting the perfect balance.

Jason remarked that I’d written a lot in my notepad, I responded by saying I have a blog. I hope you don’t mind me quoting you Jason?

Jason’s band Breakfast Included have recently launched an interesting animated music video.


SA/Swedish Big Band

There exists an exchange programme between Sweden and South Africa, and one of the initiatives between the two countries at this year’s fest involved Sweden’s national youth jazz band and a few competent young South African players. A big band was assembled with the aim of showcasing the prowess of these young jazz musicians. Jointly conducted by Sweden’s Fredrik Noren (conductor of the Stockholm Jazz Orchestra and the Blue Note Sextet) and well-known South African trumpeter Brian Thusi.

I’m always so blown away by how advanced these Swedish kids are and their command of big band swing music is amazing. When it came to the South African stuff that Brian Thusi presented, they weren’t that hot – but then someone else may differ. I do however think that it was a good show!

Melanie Scholtz Sings

Sultry Melanie Scholtz was enchanting again with her beautiful voice. I’ve seen her many times before and this time she was joined by Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz – Afrika Mkhize (piano), Martin Sjöstedt (bass), Ayanda Sikade (drums) and my friend Kyle du Preez (trombone).

What can be said for beautiful music? Are there any words? Perhaps I should comment on Mel’s alluring salsa dancing 😉 ?

Nick Carter Mixed-Ability Band – Final Performance

I was allocated into Nick Carter’s mixed-ability big band. Our first performance of Herbie Hancock’s Chameleon was a bit of a flop. This time around though, we managed to keep it together quite tightly with another funky tune (not sure what the name was now). All I can say is that it was a joy to play with drummer Reuben Crowie. Perhaps the two of us not making the national band was a blessing in disguise? One thing I do know, and in comparison to our first encounter as bassist and drummer – it felt good.

After our performance, Nick put forth that profound sentiment again – the one about how we’re all unique individuals and that no-one’s hand print is identically the same as the next person. He encouraged us to explore our musical individuality and not attempt to copy the playing style of anyone else. This left me with a refreshed feeling. Often times musicians are expected to emulate the style or tone of someone way better and more well-known. Perhaps it is more rewarding to just be yourself.

National Bands

The final night saw the performances of the two national bands: the National Schools’ Big Band and the National Youth Jazz Band.

James Bassingthwaighte, conductor of the Schools’ Band  (also my mixed-ability band conductor last year) and owner of the music production company Thatch Music in Joburg, put together a dynamic programme that paid homage to previous members of the national bands who are today doing big things in the music industry, many of whom wrote music specifically for the band to perform. Some of the music that was featured was as diverse as Tuto Puoane and Mi Casa. James’ interpretation and arrangement of all of these fresh genres was great and having slept an average of 2 hours a night while at the fest, I think he deserves a commendation.

Paul Hanmer was the conductor of the National Youth Jazz Band and he too had something special prepared. What I enjoyed most about this performance was the Africaness of it it all. What I enjoyed most about listening to his albums and albums he has played on has been that very distinct African sound so neatly embedded into what I hear. The players who were selected for the band were also top class and each one truly deserves the accolade. It was a good end to a very physically and emotionally taxing festival.

‘Til Next Year!

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