Celebrating 20 years of Jazzathon

Craig Parks is the organiser of this years Jazzathon event.

Q: Tell us a bit about your background and involvement in the music industry.

A: I started in this industry purely for the love of local music but could not understand why awesome local musicians were not getting the recognition they deserved. About 25 years ago, Cape Town was known as the “jazz capital of SA”, yet the musicians were struggling to find work. I had also hooked up with John Esterhuizen and Quinton Raaff, who shared my passion for the South African music scene and after being ardent groupies of some of the best bands in Cape Town, we agreed that our local heroes were without doubt some of the best musicians in the world. It was then that we realised that something had to be done to promote the music and the musicians. While working as a producer for a local radio station and travelling to Grahamstown, the idea of Jazzathon came to me – we would have to host a big showcase featuring all the local musos and Cape Town should be the stage. The very first Jazzathon was staged in 1997 and immediately afterwards John, Quinton and I formed JCQ Productions. Eventually we were inundated with sponsors who believed in the Jazzathon concept and the festival had a good run for 12 years.

Q: Jazzathon took a hiatus a few years ago – when was this, and why?

A: A few things happened and eventually we could not sustain the festival project. In 2010, our then sponsor of seven years – Standard Bank – announced that they were rather focusing on soccer and jazz but did not include Cape Town in their plans of sponsorship and it was becoming more and more difficult to find big sponsors, which was desperately required to fund the project. A chain of events, including the deaths of John and Quinton, eventually left me losing faith in the way things were going. But eventually, the Cape Town International Jazz Festival gave me new hope, and soon the passion to work with young musicians crawled back into my life. I have been working for the CTIJF for the past seven years, and it is here that I can see the growth of young musicians.

Q: You indicated that despite the traditional Jazzathon event not having been held in recent years, Jazzathon has been involved in other ventures. Please elaborate on this.

A: The concept of Jazzathon has always been about the promotion of young and upcoming musicians and the promotion of jazz-based music. JCQ believes that Jazzathon is about jazz that goes on (continuous) through various forms including training and development of musicians. This ideal has been carried through by various projects that JCQ or I have been involved in through the years – this includes shows like Matt Bianco at GrandWest, projects with the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, various music festivals, various music schools, skills development projects, live performances and showcases which have been held at venues around Cape Town, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, Grabouw, Atlantis, and on the West Coast. All these projects have been conducted under the Jazzathon banner.

Q: At this year’s Jazzathon there will be a change in format. Please tell us about these changes.

A: Let’s just say that there will be a format tweak. Every Jazzathon was always hosted over four days with special focus on women in jazz, young and up-and-coming stars, gospel, and legends in jazz. However, since this is the 20th anniversary celebration, we will only showcase active music projects that feature the youngest musicians – including projects like Jazz Yard Academy, The Kronendal Music Academy, The Cape Music Institute and the Little Giants who have helped to mould many-a-young musical talent. The average age of the musicians performing at the Jazzathon this year is 23. The oldest musicians, whom Jazzathon refers to as the legends, are the guys who are not older than 35 but have carved out their music brand for more than 15 years. Most of these guys are unknown and those who are well-known in the music scene have mentored and provided musical guidance for the new wave of upcoming musicians

Q: Who can audiences expect to see at the event?

A: Many surprises, many new faces, many new voices and a lot of talent. The few well-known stalwarts who perform at the festival will feature as guests but not necessarily as band leaders. (Those who attend can) expect an average of six performances a day.

This year’s Jazzathon, Craig adds, has been something of a labour of love, hosted in memory of John and Quinton “and the many musicians and supporters who have kept the legacy alive”.

“Sadly, the 20th anniversary of Jazzathon has no financial sponsor and the production will be funded by me and some very special friends who have graciously offered their time and services. The V&A Waterfront has given the most support. It is also very overwhelming to acknowledge all the musicians who have offered to support this initiative.”

The Jazzathon takes place at the Amphitheatre at the V&A Waterfront from tomorrow, Thursday January 12, until Sunday January 15, with two sessions daily – one from 1pm to 3.30pm and another from 5.30pm to 8pm.

For more information, go to the Jazzathon Facebook event page at https://www.facebook.com/events/1592505937724685/For more information, go to the Jazzathon Facebook event page at https://www.facebook.com/events/1592505937724685/