Well-traveled bassist Mlungisi Gegana treated the people of Mangaung to an evening of jazz conversations, reports Mpho Matsitle.
Johannesburg-based Mlungisi Gegana made a pit stop in Bloemfontein on his way to the Eastern Cape in his undeclared tour of a few cities. He was accompanied on keys by the mischievous Wandile Molefe whose impassioned soliloquies had many seats sprouting needles forcing the small crowd of connoisseurs on their feet. On drums, Paki Peloeole – always bearing a Homer Simpson-esque up-to-no-good smile – brought a whole lot of funk to the eclectic trio.
The trio is the living embodiment of the dictum that jazz is the epitome of democracy, wherein collective work reigns and individual excellence celebrated. As they superbly trotted through Gegana’s selected work from his two albums and two new tracks still being workshopped for the third album, one could zoom in on each player and marvel at their individual brilliance.
This parallax view allowed the audience to call forth which ever player they wanted to concentrate on and reduce the rest to the background – in and outside of the solos. One could play their own match up throughout the performances; listen to one player, any combination of two, or the whole trio. Either way it was a treat.
Delivering two sets of four original compositions each, the trio teased each other and the crowd with delectable melodies and spellbinding skill. Although he was the least playful of the three, it was Mlungisi who set the humorous tone of the evening when he introduced their opening piece: “This is ‘My First Audience’ from my second album.” The intended pun elicited a much-needed ice breaking chuckle in the show that had no opening act.
For the major part of the show Molefe and Peloeole were shouting and laughing out loud, often casting knowing smiles at the audience whenever they struck a particularly affecting note – almost as if daring them not to react much as Sipho Gumede did with “Please Don’t Dance.” Theirs was a conversation from heaven.
Andile Qongqo – co-curator of Jazz Evenings with Lesley Jennings – remarked that this is the standard the institution aims to keep going forth, whether with local, national or international artists. It is quite a raised bar – especially considering that the two previous instalments saw the 2011 Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year Bokani Dyer (June) and the legends Dominic Egli and Feya Faku (July) grace the Jazz Evenings stage. It is because of this that they can’t promise when the next one will be, as they prize consistency of quality over consistency of occurrence.
Jazz Evenings, now some three years old, has been the bastion of live jazz music in the city sans any major sponsorship, necessitating some ingenuity from the organisers: “We hope to catch artists as they pass through Bloemfontein,” Qongqo reveals. This is done to lower costs of hosting the shows – a brilliant tactic of using the city’s central location to attract top talent for a song.
It has been a somewhat nomadic existence for the institution, having being housed by Windmill Casino and Pacofs before finding home in the posh Coco C, but it has also been one filled with memories to last a lifetime as many loyal aficionados reminisced during the intermission. Thus rendering it firmly rooted and at home in jazz lovers’ hearts.
FEATURED IMAGE: The Mlungisi Gegana Trio in action. Credit: Jazz Evenings