Pianist Ramon Alexander realises one of his long-time ambitions this weekend when he takes to the stage, in a manner of speaking, at the prestigious Standard Bank Jazz Festival 2020/Makhanda.
The enterprising musician will showcase his prodigious talents when his quartet is featured on Sunday’s program of the festival – with one significant difference: this time it’ll be an online streaming event.
The jazz program is part of the Virtual National Arts Festival that had its genesis 44 years ago as the Grahamstown Arts Festival. The jazz component goes back 33 years to give performers a place where “artists meet and challenge audiences to expand their expectations of the art form”.
The corona virus pandemic has forced the event, like so many others, to go online and stream to an audience sitting in the comfort of their lounges.
“It has long been a dream of mine to play at the festival,” said Ramon who, back in 2004, was selected as pianist for the Standard Bank National Youth Big Band.
“It would have been great to be live at the festival but for me just being part of it is fantastic, even if it is a streaming event.”
The streaming event itself won’t feature the quartet playing live. It will go out as a pre-recorded set. The group recorded their tunes last week at Artscape.
“It was a very professional set-up on stage at Artscape,” Ramon said. “Standard Bank organised a quality crew to tape the show.
“I wasn’t too fazed that the auditorium was empty. It was like recording in a studio.”
Solo piano links
Ramon said the set would feature some of his older tunes with Dance of Our Fathers being reworked. Other tunes in the set include Apex, Louwskloof se Mense, Ebrahim Khalil Shihab’s Jing’an Park, Oom Robbie Jansen, Roderick and Reflections.
Roderick is a new tune dedicated to his brother who died a few years ago.
The set will also feature a significant part where Ramon plays solo piano as he links the various tunes. “I just feel that is an area of my playing that I need to explore a little bit more.”
Ramon’s quartet is made up of Byron Abrahams (sax), Valentino Europa (bass), and Annemie Nel (drums).
The boy from Mamre hasn’t only been busy preparing for the festival. Behind the scenes he has been working on his next album.
“I have most of it done already,” he said “It’s just a matter of adding one or two more tunes and doing some mixing.”
He has used bassist Chadleigh Gower, Annemie Nel and saxophonists Byron Abrahams and Zeke le Grange for the recordings which were laid down at i-Studios.
“The Covid-19 situation has put a spanner in the works with this project as well. I am now hoping to have it out by the end of the year or early next year.”
The coming album will be a follow up to his highly successful Echoes from Louwskloof that featured the very popular ghoema tune, Sons and Captains and Essence of Spring which was a collaboration with Shihab.
Tickets to view Ramon’s online streaming gig can be bought here:
The festival runs from Thursday, June 24 until July 5. Tickets can be bought as single event passes, a day pass or a festival-long pass. It features some of the best young jazz performers in the country.
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