This is the last in my current series of posts on jazz in Cape Town, South Africa. (To see them all, click on the links over on the right.) Appropriately, it's about the Monday night jam session at Swingers, which has, over the last few years, become my musical home-away-from-home. It's been a part of the Cape Town scene for over a decade and has achieved quite a bit of fame, regularly attracting international jazz stars (such as Joe Sample and Stefan Harris) and local heroes (such as Winston Mankunku Ngozi, Mark Fransman, and Shannon Mowday). It's also in all the guide books. During the tourist season, tour buses crowd Swingers' parking lot.
I posted some photos from Swingers a couple weeks ago, all in black and white. I love black and white, but it does change the look of the jam session. The colors on stage are pretty wild. Here they are in all their glory.
Darren English, right, and Alvin Dyers, on the left, in the shadows. (All photos copyright John Edwin Mason. Click directly on the photos to see larger versions.)
Alvin Dyers, a composer and brilliant guitarist, has led the house band for as long as I've been going to Swingers. Darren English has been a jam session regular for several years, since he was in high school. He's student at the University of Cape Town's South Africa College of Music and has just returned from studies in Norway.
Buddy Wells, a regular member of the house band and a powerhouse tenor player.
Buddy Wells, left, Kyle Shepherd, center, and Alistair Andrews, right.
Members of the South African Army band dropped by to jam. They wowed the audience.
Kyle Shepherd jams with members of the South African Army band.
Tobin's an American singer and actor who's in Cape Town to star in "The Rat Pack", a tribute to Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr. Tobin plays Sinatra, and he does it very well, capturing Sinatra's swagger and his easy sense of swing. He was right at home at Swingers.
Patrick Tobin and Buddy Wells.
Jeff has been a Cape Town jazz stalwart for many years. A fine singer and a very funny man (with a very, umm, adult sense of humor).
Last, but far from least, is Joe Schaffers. He's an amazingly versatile singer--rock, pop, standards, jazz. He also does a fine job of MC'ing the jam session, from time to time. To judge from the beautiful way he treats a song, jazz has got to be his first love.
There's a lot of talk, in the United States, about jazz being dead or dying. Audiences are disappearing, we're told, and young musicians could care less about the music. Well, maybe, and then, maybe not.
Musicians in South Africa certainly complain about the lack of gigs, the paucity of places to play. But nobody, at least not in Cape Town, is complaining that young people don't dig jazz. Look again at these photographs--musicians of almost every age, with the average being closer to 25 than 65. That's typical of Swingers and typical of the Cape Town scene.
Jazz is dead? Not in Cape Town.