Someone once said, ‘Music speaks what cannot be expressed, soothes the mind and gives it rest, heals the heart and makes it whole, flows from heaven to the soul’. This may have been said while someone was listening to jazz, because there is no other genre of music with the capacity to strip your emotions bare and fill you up at the same time.
Since 2014, Safaricom International Jazz Festival has brought together music lovers from all over Kenya and the world to share their love for jazz and give to a worthy cause. Usually held every year in February, it is a family affair that encompasses good music, good food and good company. As a prelude to the festival, various events are held including the Safaricom Jazz Lounge.
Over the years, many of the world’s renowned jazz performers have graced the stage and this year will be no different. It has been confirmed that globally acclaimed American jazz performers Diane Reeves and Marcus Miller will be part of the 2018/2019 season of Safaricom Jazz.
Jazz lovers are in for a treat as five-time Grammy award winner Diane Reeves is set to perform for the first time in Kenya at the Safaricom Jazz Lounge scheduled for 18-20 October 2018.
Many people say that they have been singing their whole lives, but this could actually be true in Dianne’s case. She was born in 1956 in Detroit, Michigan, to a musical family. Her father sung, her mother played the trumpet, her uncle is bassist Charles Burrell, and her cousin is George Duke.
Dianne was raised in Denver and started singing and playing the piano in 1971. She was a member of her high school band, and while performing at a convention in Chicago was noticed by trumpeter Clark Terry, who invited her to sing with him. She studied classical voice at the
The University of Colorado for a time then moved to Los Angeles where she sang with
Stanley Turrentine and Lenny White. She became a member of the jazz fusion group
Caldera then founded another fusion group, Night Flight, with Billy Childs.
Dianne moved to New York City and from 1983 to 1986 toured with Harry Belafonte. In the late 1980s, she had major success with a crossover song called “Better Days”, oftentimes referred to as “The Grandma Song”, because she pays homage to grandmother in that song.
Dianne Reeves is arguably the best jazz vocalist in the world, having received the Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Performance for three consecutive recordings- a Grammy first in any vocal category. Her album “Beautiful Life” showcases Dianne’s sublime gifts in what is a melding of R&B, Latin and pop elements within the framework of 21st Century jazz. It was also the listeners’ choice for 2015 Jazz FM Album of the Year. She also won the Best Jazz Vocal Grammy for George Clooney’s six-time Academy Award-nominated “Good Night, and Good Luck” film soundtrack. Her latest honour has been receiving the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, which is the highest honour for jazz in the US. Asked for what inspires her, Diane is quick to answer, “The beauty of life, and finding a way to bring it out”.
Bob Collymore, CEO, Safaricom, said that they were very excited and honoured to host one of the most influential jazz musicians in the world during the Safaricom Jazz Lounge, as part of their commitment to keep bringing world-class talent for Kenyan Jazz fans.
After the Lounge, two-time Grammy award winner Marcus Miller will headline the Safaricom International Jazz Festival scheduled for 11th – 17th February 2019.
He has been a jazz musician for over 30 years and has won numerous awards, including two Grammys, the 2013 Edison Award for Lifetime Achievement in Jazz (Holland), winner of the 2010 Victoire du Jazz (France) and in 2013, was appointed a UNESCO Artist For Peace. Marcus Miller was born in Brooklyn, New York City, in 1959 and raised in a musical family that includes his father, William Miller who was a church organist and choir director and jazz pianist
Marcus Miller is classically trained as a clarinettist and also plays keyboards, saxophone and guitar. He began to work regularly in New York City, eventually playing bass and writing music for jazz flutist Bobbi Humphrey and keyboardist Lonnie Liston Smith. After being discovered by Michał Urbaniak in 1975, Miller spent approximately 15 years performing as a session musician, observing how band leaders operated. During that time he also did a lot of arranging and producing.
Marcus was a member of the Saturday Night Live band 1988–1989. He wrote the intro to Aretha Franklin’s “I Wanna Make It Up To You”. His unique bass sound can also be heard on musical hits such as Bill Wither’s “Just the Two of Us”, to Luther Vandross’ “Never Too Much”, to songs from Chaka Khan, David Sanborn, Herbie Hancock, Eric Clapton, Aretha Franklin, George Benson, Elton John and Bryan Ferry.
Marcus has played bass on over 500 recordings including those of Luther Vandross, Grover Washington Jr., Roberta Flack, Carly Simon, McCoy Tyner, Weldon Irvine, Bryan Ferry and Billy Idol. He won the “Most Valuable Player” award (given by NARAS to recognize studio musicians) three years in a row and was subsequently awarded “player emeritus” status and retired from eligibility. In the nineties, Miller began to write his own music and make his own records, putting a band together and touring regularly.
Marcus Miller’s unique combination of funk, groove, soul and pure technical skills has caused him to be referred to as one of the most significant bass players in jazz, R&B, fusion and soul. He also has a deep resume of outstanding collaborations, most notably a 15-year songwriting and production partnership with Luther Vandross, which gave birth to the hit single “Power of Love/Love Power”.
As a composer, Miller co-wrote several songs on the Miles Davis album Tutu, including its title track. He also composed “Chicago Song” for David Sanborn and ” Da Butt “, which was featured in Spike Lee’s School Daze. Miller also hosts a jazz history and influences show called Miller Time with Marcus Miller on the Real Jazz on SiriusXM. On top of all of this, Miller has been a prolific artist and bandleader in his own right for well over 20 years, having released over a dozen albums under his name.
In 2015, Miller released Afrodeezia, an album inspired by his role as a UNESCO spokesperson for the Slave Routes Project. For that album, Miller incorporated musical influences from countries along the Atlantic slave route passage, collaborating with musicians from West Africa, North Africa, South America and the Caribbean. The album earned a 2016 Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Jazz Album. In addition to his recording and performance career, Miller has established a parallel career as a film score composer, having written numerous scores for films.
As always, proceeds from all ticket sales will be donated to the Ghetto Classics music programme. As a beneficiary of Safaricom Jazz since 2014, the programme has so far received an estimated KES 60 million, which has benefited over 1,400 children from Nairobi and Mombasa. Proceeds from the 2018/2019 Edition will see the Ghetto Classics Schools programme extend to Kisumu.
The Safaricom International Jazz Festival is a great event to look forward to and you can check their website for further details or more information as you countdown to the D-day.
I like to make sense of the world, and I do that best when I write. I enjoy writing about emotions, people, and both the spoken and unspoken. Apart from writing, I enjoy reading, puzzles, travelling, cooking and eating.